"Catskins." Story theatre adaptation by R. Rex Stephenson  and The Jack Tale Players. Unpublished. This adaptation with music by Emily Rose Tucker was created in 2007. Click on thumbnail at left for drawing by student in Russell Kent's kindergarten class, Dudley Elementary School, Franklin County, Virginia. The drawing shows the magic flying box in which Catskins escapes. See more illustrations for "Catskins" in AppLit's Picture Gallery.

See also Study Guides for Jack Tale Players Catskins.

"Catskins." In Richard Chase. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948, pp. 106-14. With one drawing of Catskins in the woods by Berkeley William, Jr. Catskins' acquisition of her guardian's "flyin' box," as well as the beautiful dresses she demands from him, makes her escape from him and her surreptitious trips to "the King's place" appear especially powerful and dramatic. Another appealing feature is the sympathetic young daughter who tells her mean old mother, Catskins' employer, not to be "so hard-hearted" in her dealings with the poor girl wearing the strange cat-hide dress. As this young girl helps Catskins, not realizing she is the mysterious beauty who captures the prince's heart, it is refreshing to see a kind friend in a role parallel to that of the cruel stepsisters in other tales. Chase's notes refer to the Adams's "Seneca The-Mush-Stick" (below), as well as informants from Wautauga County (related to Orville Hicks, below).

"Catskin." In Hicks, Orville, and Julia Taylor Ebel. Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns, As Told By Orville Hicks. Illus. Sherry Jenkins Jensen. Boone, NC: Parkway Publishers, 2009. Afterword by Thomas McGowan. pp. 139-47. The plot is similar to the tale recorded by Chase and adapted by Stephenson (above). One of the pencil drawings shows the piece of cake with a ring in it that revives the lovesick prince and makes him demand to see the baker of the cake. Catskin had tricked her persecutors by hiding in the cake the ring that the prince gave her, which leads to their reunion and marriage.

"Seneca The-Mush-Stick." Collected by James Taylor Adams, Big Laurel, Virginia from his wife, Dicy Adams. JTA-119. James Taylor Adams Collection. Full text in this web site. The girl who works for a rich family is named Seneca but the family calls her Cat-skin because of her only catskin dress, and she later calls herself Seneca The-Mush-Stick because the son hits her with a mush stick. A fairy helps her win over the son (even though he's been mean to her) when she wears beautiful dresses at a series of meetings. She loses a silver slipper which the son uses to identify the right girl. This is one of the tales about "Catskin" or Ashpet/Cinderella in which the heroine does not leave the family that treats her badly. For explanation of the American mush stick, see "Hasty Pudding and the Pudding Stick," in The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles (June 2001, accessed at this link 10/2/05). Richard Chase (in Grandfather Tales, p. 236), notes that this tale "has the 'broken ladle' business in it, as in" Joseph Jacobs' "Catskin" (see below).

"Catskins." Told by Alberta Harmon and Samuel Harmon of Maryville, Tenn. Recorded by Herbert Halpert Apr. 27, 1939. In American Folktales: From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Ed. Carl Lindahl. Vol. 1. Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004, pp. 38-42. The opening of this tale is unusual because the title character is "lazy and tired and slothful" while her two sisters are "smart and good girls." Catskins won't work or do anything to clothe herself except for killing some of her many cats to make a dress of the hides. She decides to go to the king's house to be a servant, but she is starving in the woods when a man gives her a box and three dresses, telling her how to make the box fly. After working for the king awhile, she begs to go to the gospel meeting, so the queen loans her a dress, but she puts on her own dress "the color of every bird that flew in the air" and attracts the prince. Another of her dresses is "the color of every fish that ever floated in the water." Catskins volunteers to bake the prince a cake when he is about to die of lovesickness because no one can find the girl he loves. He revives when he finds the ring he had given Catskins in the cake. Alberta Harmon adds that Catskins wrote to her sisters after marrying the prince, to tell them she was "better off than they'd ever been." Lindahl observes, "Alberta's version of Cinderella undercuts the magic of the tale by ending on a surprising and realistically cynical note." His introduction also notes that amid the Hicks-Harmons' "enormous store of narrative tradition," the Jack Tales were told by the men and "'Catskins' was passed on from grandmother to granddaughter. Nevertheless, stories with male heroes were not told solely among males, nor were stories with female heroes told exclusively among females" (pp 39-40).|

"Old Catkins." In Isobel Gordon Carter. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore 38 (1925): pp. 340-74 (this tale on pp. 361-63). A landmark article containing Jack tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925), recorded by Carter in 1923. Carter comments on the decline of storytelling among mountain families who used to know them better, although they had not been recorded as ballads had. Catkins is the lazy one of three sisters whose mother dies. When she tries on her mother's wedding dress, her father gives her a series of fantastic dresses to find out who she is. When she reveals herself he is mad and threatens to beat her so she leaves home. At the king's house, she says she doesn't mind working with the "darkies" and does a great job of cleaning. The queen likes her and dresses her up for a dance. The king's son falls in love with her as she fetches her own fantastic dresses to wear at a series of dances. She won't reveal her identity so he gets lovesick. Catkins offers to bake him a cake, putting in a ring that he gave her, and he recognizes her smile, so they get married. Carter had to ask Gentry why the girl was called Catkins and Gentry said the sisters wouldn't give the girl any new clothes so they patched her clothes with an old cat hide. Available online through library services such as JSTOR.

"Little Cat Skin." In Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2000, pp. 82-3. Told by Big Nelt  (a big man who sang ballads and told old tales) in E. KY. Cat Skin is treated so badly by her older sisters that she patches her clothes with cat hide. Her angry father runs her off after she dresses up in her mammy's wedding dress and he, not recognizing her, gives her what she demands: "a dress the color of all the clouds that went by," and "a dress the color of all the flowers that bloom." The queen who employs her likes Cat Skin and lets her go to a play-party, where she catches the attention of the prince, who marries her after she helps cure his sickness.   

"Catskins." Told by W. W. Rowland, 8 June 1981 and 25 June 1984, on field tapes (FS-6163 and FS-6165) in Cheryl Oxford Collection, Manuscripts Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. See Inventory of Cheryl Oxford Collection, 1981-1988. Rowland, a relative of the Hicks-Harmon family of storytellers, lived in Waynesville, NC.

"The Queen with Golden Hair." In Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2000, pp. 30-31. When the king realizes his daughter has golden hair like his dead wife, he vows to marry her. He gets her the cloak made of furs from all over the world that she demands in hopes of avoiding his shameful request. After she runs away, some hunters put her to work doing drudgery in another king's castle. She magically finds a dress of silver and gold, wearing it to the king's feast. After several tricks from the cook room that result in the discovery of her identity, the king loves her and marries her.

"The Princess that Wore a Rabbit-Skin Dress." In Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2000, pp.161-63. In this variant, a girl refuses to marry her mean stepfather. Her mare counsels her to put him off for 3.5 years by demanding dresses of silver, gold, and diamonds and pearls. After she runs away in a rabbit-skin dress given by the mare, the middle of the tale is much like "The Queen with Golden Hair." When she is mistreated by others at the castle where she does menial work, she slaps a serving man "who tried to handle the princess. . ..  That learned him she was modest and decent, and he better keep his hands to himself."  The mare gives her the three dresses in magic nuts, which help her win the prince who sees her at his play-parties.  

"Catskins." In Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales. Commissioned and first produced at Theater of the First Amendment. George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 2000. Conceived by Mary Hall Surface (from KY) and David Maddox (from NC). Written by Mary Hall Surface. Lyrics by Mary Hall Surface and David Maddox. Music by David Maddox. (GMU Study Guide on Appalachian Wonder Tales by Surface and Maddox at this link). Published by Dramatic Publishing (Woodstock, IL), with CD of music, 2002. Play with music based on Appalachian folktales and songs, including also "Jack of Hearts and King Marock," "Jack's First Job," "Jack and the Wonder Beans," "The Sow and her Three Pigs," and "The Enchanted Tree." Also produced as set of 2 CDs. Picture, summary of each tale and downloadable script excerpts at Dramatic Publishing Online Catalog. Also produced at Theater at Lime Kiln (Lexington, Virginia, July 2005). Catskins is an orphan taken in by a farmer who turns mean when his wife dies but she escapes by using his traveling box to fly away. The wife's ghost becomes Catskin's magic helper.

See also these Appalachian tales:

"Rushiecoat and the King's Son." This tale is more like "Cinderella" than any of these tales with lustful father figures, but Rushiecoat is turned into a rabbit by her jealous stepsister near the end. When her rabbit hide is burned, the witch's spell on her is broken and Rushiecoat returns to the prince she had married. See details at Ashpet

"The Princess in the Donkey Skin." In Leonard Roberts (collector). South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964, pp. 69-70. This tale also has more in common with Ashpet, but it is about the princess fleeing from her father's plan to marry her to an ugly faraway king. She is forced to keep her word that she would rather live in a donkey skin than marry. She runs away and stays with an old woman. When the prince comes by, he finds her diamond ring in the soup and her fairy godmother turns her back into a beautiful girl long enough for him to fall in love with her. Later he searches until he finds the girl whose finger fits the ring, then marries her.

Compare "Catskins" with:

Hooks, William H. Moss Gown Illus. Donald Carrick. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. An attractive picture book set on a Southern plantation, based on stories William H. Hooks heard in childhood in the tidewater area of eastern North Carolina. Although the daughter’s defiant escape from incest in “Catskin” and related tales is a theme with historical and social importance, readers who are uncomfortable with it in stories for children will prefer Moss Gown; it begins with a conflict over filial loyalty and property as in “Like Meat Loves Salt,” and then the independent heroine is similar to Catskins, obtaining a magic gown and a kitchen job on another plantation, where she wins the heart of the young master. Hooks explains that in western North Carolina, where Spanish moss does not grow, Appalachian storytellers called the tale “Rush Cape” (“Author’s Note” 48).

Hamilton, Virginia. "Catskinella." Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales. Illus. Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, 1995. Hamilton does not give her exact source for this tale. Nina Mikkelsen discusses it and Chase's tale in her essay "Strange Pilgrimages." See details at Folklore in Books by Virginia Hamilton. See also summary in Peck Cinderella Bibliography.Catskin by Arthur Rackham

Many variants in European folktales, including Joseph Jacobs' English version of "Catskin" in English Fairy Tales and in Tatar, The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: Norton, 1999. Jacobs' version from More English Fairy Tales (1890s) is reprinted online at SurLaLuneFairyTales.com, with lists of variants, modern interpretations and spin-offs, pictures of book jackets, and related information. This wonderful site by Heidi Anne Heiner also gives an annotated version of Andrew Lang's Donkey Skin (from The Grey Fairy Book, 1900). Heiner also reprints a book that contains many "Catskin Tales": Cox, Marian Roalfe. Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin, and Cap O' Rushes, abstracted and tabulated. London: David Nutt for the Folklore Society, 1893.
"The Princess in the Catskins" is from The Fireside Stories of Ireland. Ed. Patrick Kennedy. Dublin: M'Glashan and Gill, 1870.

Illustration of Catskin at right by Arthur Rackham, from Flora Annie Steel's English Fairy Tales. New York: Macmillan, 1918.

Illustration of "Catskin" on a Russian web site, from Joseph Jacobs' English Fairy Tales.

Huck, Charlotte. Princess Furball. Illus. Anita Lobel. NY: Greenwillow, 1989. N. pag. picture book. See summary in Peck Cinderella Bibliography.

See Allerleirauh (Grimm), Tattercoats, Cat Skin, Donkey Skin, detailed annotations on these and other tales in Cinderella Bibliography by Russell Peck. Summaries of some of the Appalachian tales and picture books on this page are included.

The Father Who Wanted to Marry His Daughter. Folktales of Aarne-Thompson Type 510B. D. L. Ashliman, Univ. of Pittsburgh, reprints a number of tales of this type.

"Donkeyskin" is one of the categories in Once Upon a Time . . . a personal web site with a list of novels based on fairy tales and synopses of individual tales with lists of novels and blurbs on each one. Sur La Lune Fairy Tales has similar lists with other genres in addition to novels.


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