Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One, My Darling, Come to Mama

This is my favorite Haitian folktale from “The Magic Orange Tree,” collected by Diane Wolkstein from Pradel Parent, a man who grew up in the countryside near Mayanman.  It’s a bit of a Cinderella story, with the added elements of forgiveness, love, and restoration.  Even across cultures that are so different, the message rings true.  You can watch Diane Wolkstein tell the story of “One, My Darling, Come to Mama,” below:



Story ©1978, 1997 Diane Wolkstein.
Video ©2010 Diane Wolkstein/Philip David Morgan —
Promenade Digital [Mediaworks].

Creative Commons License
This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution–Noncommercial–No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.


Or you can read the text, directly excerpted from the book (p. 167-170):

There was once a woman who had four daughters.  She loved the first three and despised the fourth.  Each time she brought food home for her children, she would stand outside the door and sing:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

The older daughters would run to the door and let their mother in.  Philamandré remained in the corner.  The three girls and their mother would sit at the table and eat.  And if there was any food left, it would be given to Philamandré.  The three older girls grew fat and sleek.  Philamandré was thin as a nail.

Now a devil had been watching the mother for a long time.  He saw how the mother would arrive at her house and sing, and how the young girls would run to the door.  He had secretly been practicing her song:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

At last the devil decided he was ready.  He came to the door and sang in a deep gruff voice:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

But, of course, the girls knew the gruff voice was not their mother’s and did not open the door.  The devil went to see the plumber.

“Tighten my voice,” he said.  “Tighten it as much as you can, so it will be as high as possible.”

When the devil returned to the house of the young girls, his voice was three octaves higher and sounded like a bird:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

“Some silly bird,” the girls said to each other and did not go to the door.

A little later their mother returned and sang:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

The girls at once recognized her voice and let her in.  As always the four ate together, leaving the scraps to Philamandré. 

The devil went back to the plumber and complained, “You tightened it too much.”  So the plumber loosened it a bit and when the devil returned the next day, his voice sounded just like the mother’s:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

The girls ran to the door to let their mother in and the devil grabbed all three and ran off with them.

Philamandré remained in the corner.
After a while the mother returned and sang:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

No one came to the door.  The mother sang again:

One, my darling, come to Mama,
Two, my darling, come to Mama,
Three, my darling, come to Mama,
Stay, Philamandré, stay,
Stay where you are.

Still no one came.  Where were her dear ones?  Then she heard:

One cannot come to Mama,
Two cannot come to Mama,
Three cannot come to Mama,
Philamandré is
Where she is.

The mother pushed open the door and when she did not see anyone she ran from the house like a madwoman, singing her song to anyone who would listen.

Philamandré walked out the open door, down the road to town.  She found work, and after some time, she married the king’s son.

Many years later a madwoman was heard singing in the street:

One cannot come to Mama,
Two cannot come to Mama,
Three cannot come to Mama,
Philamandré is
Where she is.

The king’s servants tried to hurry her away from the palace.  She was in rags, and her wild hair, filled with droppings of birds, looked like branches of a tree.  But every day she would come back and sing:

One cannot come to Mama,
Two cannot come to Mama,
Three cannot come to Mama,
Philamandré is
Where she is.

Then one day the queen’s servant said to the queen, “There is a ragged woman in the street who calls every afternoon for Philamandré.  Do you know anyone of that name?”

The queen rushed to the window.  The woman on the street, the beggar woman, was her own mother.  She went down and brought her into the palace.  She washed her and gave her new clothes and cut her hair.

“Mama,” she said, “the others are no more.  But I am here.  Look at me, I am Philamandré.  You did not care for me, but I am here, and now I will take care of you.”

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