Fairy Tales in Different Cultures--Little Gold Star

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With this week being Holy Week, I thought I would share a Cinderella story that has a Christian twist. (With Passover starting this week I considered doing a second Jewish one, but decided to put that off until next week.) I found two versions of today's story. One is told in Spanish and English, however it does not have the Christian twist. Both are called Little Gold Star and take place in the American Southwest--New Mexico to be more precise. Now my experience with New Mexico is very limited. My family traveled across country when I was young and I remember stopping at the Four Corners so we could stand in four states at one time. This was my only time to New Mexico. For those that do not know United States geography well, New Mexico is one of the four states that meet at one point (this is the only place in the US that it happens). The four states are Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

Map of the United States with New Mexico highlighted

New Mexico is located in the Southwestern part of the United States. It was part of the Spanish colonies as well as part of Mexico. It has the highest percentage of Hispanics among the 50 states. It also has the second highest percentage of Indigenous peoples of the Americas among the states. The tribes consist mostly of Pueblo and Navajo peoples. As a result the culture of New Mexico is very unique and has a high influence on Hispanic and Native American cultures. Even the state flag shows this mix. The colors of the flag are similar to the Spanish flag and the symbol on it is an old Pueblo-related symbol called the Zia symbol.
Flag of New Mexico
The name New Mexico was given to the state before the country, Mexico was named. The Spanish explorers named it thinking it was a land rich in culture similar to the Mexico (Aztec) Empire. New Mexico and Mexico developed as two neighboring Spanish speaking communities with independent histories. 
Wheeler Peak--Source
Aztec Ruins National Monument--Source

The landscape of New Mexico ranges from rose-colored deserts to broken mesas to high snow-capped mountains. The northern part of the state contains the southern part of the Rocky Mountains. The climate is semi-arid to arid in most of the state. There are areas of continental and alpine climates as well. New Mexico has many different types of plants and animals. It has the desert plants like cacti, yucca, mesquite and trees like the spruce, fir, aspen. Birds include the wild turkey and the greater roadrunner. The animals include the black bear, Mexican grey wolf, cougars, coyotes, skunks, porcupines, bighorn sheep, deer, elk. (Source)

Today we are looking at Little Gold Star by Robert D. San Souci. I am also going to share some of the difference found in Joe Hayes' bilingual version. The first distinction is the names of the characters and the second main distinction is that the bilingual version has a hawk as the magical being and San Souci's magic comes from the Virgin Mary. The other major difference I found was in Hayes' there is a prince versus a wealthy man in the village in San Souci's. In honor of Easter, I will share San Souci's version.

In a village in what is now New Mexico, there lived a sheep farmer and his daughter, Teresa. Her mother had died, so Teresa did all the housework while the father herded the sheep in the mountains. A widow moved into the community with her two daughters and asked the farmer to marry her. When he refused she began to weep. He agreed to marry her just to get her to stop crying. Teresa was not fond of the woman or her daughters and it only got worse. She still had to do all the housework as the stepmother and her daughters did nothing. One day her father came home with gifts for all the women. He gave his wife and her daughters flowers from the mountains and gave Teresa a beautiful white lamb. Teresa loved the lamb. As soon as her father left, her stepmother killed the lamb and told Teresa to take the fleece to the river to wash it so she could make it into a pillow for herself. 

Teresa was upset, but feared what her stepmother would do if she did not obey, so she went. While washing it a fish took the fleece and swam downriver with it. Teresa began to cry since she did not know what to do and did not want to return home without the fleece. A woman dressed in blue asked her kindly why she was crying. Teresa told the woman what happened and the woman told her to go to a shack nearby and tend to the infant and old man who were there and to sweep out the shack. Teresa did as she was asked. 

When she got to the shack, the infant was crying so Teresa rocked him and sang him a lullaby until he was asleep. Then she brushed the old man's tangled hair and beard. Then she swept out the house. After finishing these tasks the woman came with the fleece looking bright white. She told Teresa her kindness was a gift of its own and touched her forehead where a gold star appeared.

Teresa rushed home with the white fleece. Her stepmother was angry that she was gone so long and tried to wash the gold star off her forehead. The more she scrubbed the brighter it shined. Then she sent her eldest daughter to was the fleece since it returned to its dirty state as soon as the stepmother touched it. The eldest daughter went to the river and a fish took it again. The woman in blue, the Virgin Mary, came again. She sent the daughter to the shack and asked her to tend the infant and the old man and to take the soup off the fire. The girl went and got upset with the crying baby, the Holy Infant, and ignored the old man, Joseph. She also spilled the soup all over the floor. When Mary returned with the white fleece, she touched the girls forehead and told her she would pay for her unkindness. When she touched her forehead a pair of horns grew out of her forehead. When the stepsister touched the fleece it turned dirty again. She ran home.

Her mother was even more upset since the fleece turned dirtier when she touched it. She tried to pull the horns off, cut they just grew bigger. She sent her other daughter to wash the fleece. The same things happened with the fish and Mary appearing. Mary sent this daughter to tend the baby and old man and to clean out the ashes of the fireplace. This daughter spanked the Holy Infant and put the ashes all over the floor. Again Mary returned and touched her forehead. This time donkey ears grew on her forehead. The stepsister took the fleece and ran home.

The mother was upset and tried again to pull off the donkey ears, but could not and only made them bigger. She made her daughters large black mantillas to cover their horns and ears. The girls called Teresa "Little Gold Star" taunting her with the name. One day Don Miguel, a wealthy young man in the village was throwing a party and invited everyone. Since Teresa did not have nice enough clothes to go, her stepmother and stepsisters left her behind. However she decided to go on her own and while there, Don Miguel danced with her. Her stepmother saw her and told her to go home at once. Don Miguel was upset when he realized she was gone. He set off to search for her the next day by looking for the woman with the little gold star.

When he came to the house, the stepmother locked Teresa in a small room and then the stepsisters served the cakes that Teresa had baked that morning to Don Miguel. When Teresa touched her gold star wishing she could be with Don Miguel, the cat spoke and said, "Little Gold Star is here." Don Miguel was told he was hearing things as they all batted at the cat. The cat however managed to remove the mantillas and the girls ran off in terror with their mother following them. The cat took Don Miguel to the room. Don Miguel asked Teresa to marry him and she said he had to ask her stepmother's permission. He sent a note asking for the permission the next day. The stepmother decided Teresa must do three impossible tasks to marry him. She and her daughters went to the market telling Teresa she must fill ten bottles with bird tears, stuff twelve pillows with bird feathers and prepare a feast before they came home. Dismayed but wanting to try, Teresa looked around the house and found only rice and a few beans for food and no birds in the sky.

She heard a knock on the door and it was Mary. Mary told her to touch her gold star and ask the birds for whatever she needed. She did this three times and got each task completed before the stepfamily came home. Realizing Teresa was blessed, the stepmother gave her permission for the marriage. Teresa's father returned right before the wedding. The gold star stayed on Teresa's forehead for the remainder of her life reminding them that she and her family are blessed. Her stepsisters and stepmother became nicer to her and eventually the horns and donkey ears shrunk down and finally disappeared. 

This is one of my favorite versions thus far since it really showed the good is rewarded. Plus the stepsisters and stepmother turn and become nice. And of course I love the involvement of the Holy Family. 

As we are catching up after being sick, our only crafts were the peg dolls.


  1. I like San Souci's work, it's also similar to some other fairy tales.

  2. It was so interesting to read about the differences in these two stories. I had heard of the bilingual version before but never this one. Thank you so much for linking up to the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop.

  3. Fairy tales in any country, language or culture are always so captivating. Thank you for linking up at The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop.

  4. Oh, I love this story! I reviewed the Hayes version last fall ( but hadn't read the San Souci version. If I remember correctly in his notes Hayes writes that most of the versions he heard used the Virgin Mary, but he decided to change it to fit native imagery. Makes a big difference in the story!

    And I love the history you shared! I had always assumed that the state got its name from the country.

  5. You have been featured at the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop! Hope you can link up again this month!

  6. Beautiful book and wonderful take on Cinderella. Thanks for celebrating with us for Multicultural Children's Book Day.


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