Dream Big, The Fairy Tale, and Butterfly Kisses are three 100-Word stories on a Cinderella theme written in three genres.
She’d stuck to her dream. That’s what Cinderella was about, pure heart.
She missed the duckie sniggers and the foster child label. She had her gown on, and in this ballroom full of possibilities a heart she could connect with was awaiting.
She bloomed, poised atop the stairwell. She had one shot and made it count. Against the mask’s itch, against the pull of the seam underneath her bosom.
Cinderella came alive at that masquerade the moment she understood that she was worth more than hand-me-downs and solitude, that she was as worthy of fulfilling her dreams as everyone else.
The Fairy Tale
It had taken her breath away, the Cinderella dress in the Fairytale Rental. Mom had shrunk at its musty scent and demanded Little Red’s cape. And a wicker-basket. Lice-free guaranteed and marked down. She’d won Best Costume for Dress-up Day, thanks to Mom’s magic wand that turned any pumpkin into a princess.
Still, she was a Cinderella at heart.
So for her Hen Party, she’d rented it. A full grown-up Cinderella dress fitted net stockings, a mask, and a crown.
A young woman’s body was found among the restaurant’s trash. ‘This Cinderella had missed her carriage,’ morning headlines read.
Most saw a butterfly flutter by, a spring breeze flirting with a gardener’s seedlings and blooms.
The raw shoots, knowing that they can’t handle its force, had released it towards the sky. Take it; it’s all but a flutter of dreams. Yet the trees, ready to forget a winter of bare mementos, had opened their buds for it, like candid arms.
And something else altogether caught its flicker. A chiffon scarf from the gardener’s knobby fist. A reminder of her soft confidence, her honesty, and her life – puff, gone!
‘To have your butterfly kisses one last time,’ he wished.
(AFR) Slaan die spyker op die kop (GER) Den Nagel auf den Kopf treffen (ENG) Hit the nail on the head (RO) A pune punctul pe i. Meaning: to do exactly the right thing and also to know that acting differently will cause a great deal of pain. Ouch!
The origin of the phrase ‘to hit the nail on the head‘
Carpentry comes to mind and thus this expression must be as old as, well, the Bronze Age – bronze nails dating to 3400 BC were discovered in Egypt.
Searching for the use of hit the nail on the head in writing, The Phrase Finder mentions a medieval text, ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’ written during the 1430s. The book is a dictation of the life and divine revelations experienced by a woman, an English Christian mystic and pilgrim, yet not a nun, and is considered to be the first autobiography in the English language.
“If I hear any more these matters repeated, I shall so smite the nail on the head that it shall shame all her supporters.”
The Book of Margery Kempe, 1430s (in modern English)
In this context, the expression ‘hit the nail on the head’ probably means to speak severely.
(AFR) As die kat weg is, is die muis baas. (GER) Ist die Katze aus dem Haus, tanzen die Mäuse auf dem Tisch. (ENG) When the cat’s away, the mice will play. (RO) Cand pisica nu-i acasa, joaca soarecii pe masa. Meaning: when any kind of authority is lacking, someone will always take advantage.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play – its history
When the cat’s away, the mice will play is an idiom / proverb originated from the Latin dum felis dormit, mus gaudet et exsi litantro (when the cat sleeps, the mouse leaves its hole, rejoicing). The idiom was also encountered in 14th century France, ou chat na rat regne (‘Where there is no cat, the rat is king’). Surely, at any time throughout history it was observed that without moral standards, chaos ruled.
3. Take the bull by the horns – in Ancient Greece
(AFR) Die bul by die horings pak (GER) Den Stier bei den Hörnern (an)packen (ENG) Take the bull by the horns. (RO) A lua taurul de coarne. (SPANISH) Coger el toro por las astas Meaning: to face a difficult situation head-on.
Take the bull by the horns – its history
As many would have guessed, the rodeo practices of West America have bulled this saying into the everyday English vocabulary. During the 18th century, wrestling steers (castrated bulls) was part of the everyday working life of American ranchers. Yet the practice of bullfighting and cattle wrangling originated with the sixteenth-century conquistadores, the conquistadors (soldiers and explorers of 15th – 17th centuries Spanish and Portuguese Empires), and the Mexican vaqueros, cowboys. Obviously, a cowboy of any origin would be quite handy at controlling a bull by its horns, thus the literal use of the expression ‘to take the bull by the horns’ was long in use before it gained a figurative meaning.
What I love about idioms is that they seem to have an invisible connection with literature. And I remember now The Twelve Labours of Hercules (Heracles in Greek), especially the seventh one: capturing the Cretan bull.
Thus, could the expression ‘to take the bull by the horns’ originate in 600 BC with The Labours of Hercules written by Peisander of Camirus?
4. To have someone wrapped around your (little) finger – during the Middle Ages
(AFR) Sy draai almal om haar vinger (GER) Jemanden um den Finger wickeln (ENG)To have someone wrapped around your (little) finger (RO) Il are la degetul mic Meaning: to exert total emotional control over someone, but without a lot of effort, to have someone under total control without no effort
This phrase ‘to have someone wrapped around your (little) finger’ is my favorite of these six idioms linguistically identical in Afrikaans, German, English, and Romanian – because of its origin. You see, it could originate in sewing or… falconry!
A seamstress would reel thread on her index finger, then draw out the yarn as needed in her sewing work – taking stock for later use.
In hawking, the hunter will have a leash tied to the bird’s foot. After the bird lands on their arm, the falconer would wind the leash around their little finger so the bird won’t take off again that easily.
In writing, a 1743 letter appears in The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia could be the oldest known mention of the idiom ‘to have someone wrapped around your (little) finger’:
“Watson could wind Parker round his finger; yet he was ready to swear twas all false.”
The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, 1743
5. To walk (tread) on eggshells – during the revolutionary 16th century
(AFR) Op eiers loop (GER) Auf Eierschalen laufen (ENG) To walk (tread) on eggshells (RO) A calca / a merge ca pe ace Meaning: to act cautiously as to not upset someone.
The oldest known written mention of ‘to walk (tread) on eggshells’ is in the 1591‘s translation of Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harington:
“So soft he treads, although his steps were wide, As though to tread on eggs he were afraid.”
1591’s translation of Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso by Sir John Harington
Surely, the expression is much older than that, dating from a time when humans would tread carefully looking for the places where (wild) hens and birds would have built a nest (or not) and hid their eggs.
6. To hang onto every word during the Industrial Revolution
(AFR) Aan iemand se lippe te hang (GER) An jemandes Lippen hängen (ENG) To hang on to (someone’s) every word / hung on her every utterance (RO) A atarna de fiecare cuvant Meaning: to listen very intently to someone.
I think this might be one of the youngest idioms in use, as it originated with the phrasal verb “hang on”, which came in use during the 19th century, when the cloth hangers were invented: 1860, hang on, meaning “to remain clinging.”
Although, here is a of beautiful quotes from the Bible, from Luke:
“and they could not find anything that they could do, for all the people [stayed close to Him and] were hanging on to every word”
The Bible, Luke 19:48
An idiom is a group of words that has a deeper, figurative meaning, other than its literal, word for word, denotation. But I think that an idiom also reflects the times when it surfaced, carrying even a minor historical aura around it.
I hope you enjoyed these 6 Idioms linguistically identical in Afrikaans, German, English and Romanian.
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An Amazon preview of Transylvania’s History A to Z, 100 Word Stories:
In Transylvania’s History A to Z, a collection of 100-word stories sprinkled with breathtaking photographs, Patricia Furstenberg uses the confining rules of the 100-word story form to stirringly capture Transylvania, Romania’s historical and geographical region.
Transylvania’s unspoiled natural beauty, its tumultuous history, and the people who touched it are depicted in this book. Written as snapshots, tall tales, and descriptive narratives, these 100-word stories are the espresso of creative writing.
A – Z, 100-Wors Stories are inspired by Transylvania’s history, from the Paleolithic Period to WW1 Each 100 Words Story is followed by a brief historical reference
The unique beauty of a 100-word story is in the way the words are strung together, each one a gem, and in the spaces left between the words, and between the sentences. So much can be told, with little words. It is a challenge for the writer, and a thrill for the reader, as each time the tale is read, a new detail springs to mind.
“As an armchair historian, I love researching lost tales, traveling, exploring hidden corners, and unearthing new facts, forgotten characters, or hidden clues. I love to give them a voice and to bring them into the light in my tales. Be it people, animals, or the land and its architecture, no detail is too small, no voice is too soft. What was once overlooked now brings history alive in my historical or contemporary fiction books and short stories, such as the 100-Word Stories based on the history of Transylvania.” (Patricia Furstenberg)
100-word stories included in Transylvania’s History A to Z:
A Paleolithic Murder Behind the Cave Art Conduct in a Neolithic Kingdom Dacian Horses of Bronze Age Echoes of a Battle, the Getae Falx vs Gladius, Dáoi vs Romans Greed, of the Roman Kind Hope Has Multiple Faces Immortalis, the Immortal Jottings on a Tree Kaleidoscope by Castra Micia, Hunedoara Laudable Attempt, to Some Extent Motives of Christianity New Footprints on Old Land Oh, This Sweet Language of Ours Powerful Tahutum Wants Transylvania Quest Beyond the Forest Romanian’s Brother, the Woodland Sincerely, your m-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA Ţara is Terra Under the Threat of Crusades Vlad the Impaler Wars with Ottomans X, I Sign My Letter with a Cross Year of Our Lord, 1848 Zest for Peace and Unity
Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories – CLICK on the image to go straight to your Amazon of choice.
Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, that dips its shores in both the Danube and the Black Sea. You can visit it now, on my blog, or at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.
We have a Romanian saying, Omul sfinţeşte locul, in English it carries the same meaning as “a good farmer makes a good farm.”
I spotted the bright blue shutters from afar. I quickened my step. I wanted to know who lived in a house with such cheerful windows, and such treasures painted on its doors. Who were they? What was their story?
They say that one should never start work, or a journey, on a Tuesday for it won’t end well. The year 1654 started on a Tuesday, and it is the year when the great Russian Patriarch Nikon decided to re-examine the church books, for “the Greeks should be followed rather than our own ancients.” The schism that followed affected many during the following century, but especially (as always) the masses. Those who sicked to their old believes, the starovery, were forced to pay higher taxes, wear special clothing that will make them stand out… if not burned at the stake.
I have to pause and draw a parallel between the choice the starovery from the Tsardom of Russia were forced to make in the 17th century and the Romanian population of Transylvania who was forced by Hungarian authorities, during 15th – 16th centuries, to convert to Calvinism, “the true faith.”
Thus, the starovery migrated. Some reached as far as Alaska, others loved the serene land around the Danube and, being fishermen by skill and having the sea in their blood, settled in Dobruja, Dobrogea, at the beginning of the 18th century. Today they are known as Lipovans, or Flipovans(after their leader’s name).
The Lipovans brought along their personal style, the men wearing long beards, the women dressed in bright reds, greens and blues, like the feathers of the birds, and the spring shoots, and the ripples of the rivers.
Do you see the thatched roof? The way it extends low over the narrow porch? They are distinctive architectural features, as are the wavy eaves:
The house, built as a home in 1885, came to the Village Museum (piece by piece and reassembled here) from the Jurilovca village, siting at the mouth of Razelm Lake – a freshwater lagoon on the shores of the Black Sea in Tulcea County, Romania.
The Lipovans who lived here painted the tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth“, on their door:
Originally painted in 1885, perhaps as a blessing on the threshhold of their new life, in a new land, and a new home:
And because it meant so much to them, the Lipovans painted it again. I like the wavy movement of the greenery depicted above and how the flowers appear to sway in the breeze.
The Symbology behind the Tree of Life – Art in Romanian Folklore, Patterns
The tree of life can be spotted painted on a door, such as above. But more often we glance upon a diminutive symbol of it (such as the branch of a fir tree, flowers in a pot, shoots of wheat or rye, or mere leaves), be it carved on the wooden pillar of a home, on a piece pottery, or embroidered by hand in a Romanian peasant blouse, ia.
The tree of life, or its symbols, they all stand for the biblical image of Jesus Christ, and of the His everlasting spirit.
The leaves, symbolize immortality and resurrection.
It is a cheerful house, and I hope the Lipovans led a happy life in their new home in Tulcea County, Dobruja, by the Black Sea.
It is said that during the midsummer’s night of 1527, a night when Romanians celebrate Sânzienele, the magic Gentle Fairies, Niccolò Machiavelli had his last dream, and a telling dream it was.
It must have been the summer’s giddy energy firing between the Sun and the Earth at exactly ninety degrees during the Summer Solstice that caused this coincidence…
The Midsummer’s Night, Sânzienele, in Romanian Folklore
In Romanian folklore the night of Sânziene is a night full of spiritual fulfillment, considered the night when desires can and should be whispered into the Universe for they might just come true under the careful protection of the Sânziene. For the Gentle Fairies, Sânzienele, are good spirits, generous towards those who respect them. Flying on the wings of summer winds, Sânzienele bring, for only one night in the year, its the shortest night, peace and harmony to all, between sky and earth, among animals, plants, humans, and it is believed that during this night only beasts can speak and humans can understand them (or perhaps that man finally – and only now – can understand what animals have to say).
Sânziene Traditions in Romania
If in the eve of Sânziene the girls who wish to get married meet the lads they fancy, then they pick flowers, Sânziene, Lady’s bedstraw or Galium verum, and weave a crown that they throw over the roof of their home. If it gets stuck in the chimney that’s a sure sign that they will marry that year. The girls also place certain fragrant flowers (basil, jasmine, melilot, mallow, rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, chamomile, verbena, black nightshade) under their pillow during the Sânziene night, hoping that they will dream of the one they are meant to marry.
The boys weave crowns of hazelnut branches to purify the earth. They set them alight and spin them in the direction of the Sun’s movement, and shout along, meant to speed up their wedding day. At dusk, the fiery wheels are rolled down from the hills and into the valleys, like a dancing sun, signifying the cycle of life. The top of the hills where the burning crowns started their journey marks their birth, and their long, fiery journey through the valley means life. After they cease their spinning, the crowns are left to burn till there’s only smoke left, and that’s death.
Sânzienele are also called Drăgaice, Queens of Heavens, Sun’s Brides.
It is after the night of Sânziene that the wheat ripens, but its stalk dries, the nights gets longer, but the days shorten, the flowers start to lose their fragrance and their holistic powers, and in the forests the fireflies show up and dance, while on the sky new constellations dance.
The Night of Sânziene is magical, as the Sun is at the height of its power and its energy spills all over the Earth absorbed by pants, animals and humans. Is this energy what really affecting our psychic, or is it only the fragrant air and the extra daylight what lifts our spirits?
It was during a Midsummer’s Night when Machiavelli had his last dream.
As was his habit, he had changed his filthy work clothes and put on clean ones, decent enough to receive the visit of princes and kings. And he would have sat by the window, awaiting their arrival, the air was so fragrant tonight, if it wasn’t for a dull ache in his belly.
So he went to lay on the bed.
He couldn’t see the green hills from his bed, nor the first fireflies of summer, yet he knew them to be there. Just like by daylight he couldn’t see the stars… And the stars was what he liked best, especially the earthly one, rulers who have long since died.
Whom shall he chat with tonight? Machiavelli closed his eyes to dull the pain, and think…
And he found himself by the side of the road, not far from his home. It was summer, that very day… he recognized the goldfinch he’d taught to sit on his finger and eat crumbs… But what was that in the distance? As the road soared, so was a cloud of dust. So he waited, forgetting all about the goldfinch, he waited till a group of travelers on foot reached him. They barely dragged their feet, so tired were they, hot from the sun too, they tattered clothes offering little shade for their skinny limbs. Crusty feet, covered in sores, hands and cheeks burned with the long travel, yet their foreheads were serene, their eyes clear, and wrinkles of smiles lined their parchment-like skin.
‘Who are you, good men? Where are you heading to?’ he asked, or he thought he did for he did not hear his voice, only the traveler’s feet moving through the dust.
And then the men, all of them, turned their heads towards him and replied in chorus, yet their voices were not loud, but soft, as soft as velvet. They said, while smiling, ‘We are the blessed ones. We are the Saints of this world. And we’re on our way to Paradise. Of course we are.’
And then they crawled up the road, taking their dust with them, while he remained put, waiting for his goldfinch. Or so he thought. For he’d forgotten what he was doing there, in the middle of the road.
When another cloud, of dust and noise, roared its way up the hill, following the same winding road.
Another group stomped past him, loud and bright, and Machiavelli had to shield his eye, so bright were their clothes, to shiny their jewels.
Could this be? thought Machiavelli, Platon? And Tacitus the politician? And Plutarh?
‘Good men,’ he said, ‘where are YOU going? And why are you all together?’
And they answered, and among the screeching and the yelling he thought he heard, ‘We are those condemned to Hell.’
Then Machiavelli blinked, for the thundering cloud had disappeared just like that, and he was laying on his bed again, while on his windowsill sat the first fireflies of summer. And he wondered, he did, what his dream meant and apparently he chose, he did, which group he liked better.
Had it been the Midsummer’s magic energy that revised Machiavelli’s mind one last time? The fireflies’ last hope? Who knows. For, just as the stars are up during the day although we cannot see them, we do not know which group Machiavelli chose either. We only know that he could choose, one last time.
Enjoy the Midsummer’s magic night, with its last gift of summer. Sweet dreams 🙂
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