Katanya

Once upon a time there was a poor old woman who longed for a child.  Every day she prayed for God to give her a little girl or boy.

God saw how lonely she was, and He sent Elijah the Prophet to visit her.  Elijah put on his usual disguise as a merchant and traveled to the woman’s humble neighborhood.

When the woman went to market and begged the merchants for food, (she could no longer afford food of her own), all the ill-humored merchants shooed her away.  Dejected, she was about to leave the market when she noticed another merchant whom she had never seen.  As she walked over to him, she saw all he had were six brown dates drying in the sun.  “Could you spare just one?” she asked.

“Surely,” said the old man, “Take whichever you like.”

Five of the dates were little, but one was very large for a date, and that was the one she took.  “Thank you, kind sir,” she said, and she went on her way.

When the woman got home, she placed the date on the windowsill where  sunlight shone.   Looking at it, the woman quickly decided the date was too beautiful to eat, and she went out to see if she could find food elsewhere.

The sun continued to shine on the date until it was quite warm.  Soon it began to stir, and all at once it broke open and out popped a girl no bigger than the tiniest finger.  She wore a dress of many colors.  As she looked around, she saw that the house was quite bare and in need of cleaning, for the old woman’s broom had only a few straws left.

The first thing the girl did was lower herself out of the window with some string she had found.  Once outside, she picked some of the short grasses and tied the bundle together with a piece of straw.  “Oh, what a perfect broom!” she cried.

Back up the string and onto the windowsill she climbed, and then she started cleaning the house.  She swept from corner to corner, until the floor sparkled like new.

Meanwhile, the old woman was walking on the road, searching for food, when she ran into the very man who gave her the date!  He smiled and gave her a large olive.  She thanked him and he continued on his way.  The old woman went to eat the olive, but almost bit into a shiny gold coin!  She hurried after the old man to give the coin back, but he was nowhere to be seen.  The coin was hers to keep.  “What a lucky day!” she thought.

But she was even more surprised when she got home, for there was her house, all neat and shiny!  She couldn’t believe her eyes.  “Who did this?” she asked out loud.

“I did, Mother,” said a tiny voice.

The old woman looked around.  There on the windowsill, where the old woman had left the date, was the tiniest girl in the world.  The old woman blinked to see if she was dreaming.  “Did you call me Mother?”

“Yes, Mother,” said the girl.  And that is when the old woman understood that the kind old man must have been Elijah.  She hugged the tiny girl very carefully and asked her name.

“No one has given me a name,” she replied.

“Then I will call you Katanya, the little one,” her mother said.

Katanya and her mother lived happily together in their little hut, and they loved each other very much.  Katanya’s mother made a little bed for her inside a teacup, a fur hat from a bunny’s tail, shoes out of tiny nutshells, and dresses from rose petals.  But of all her clothes, Katanya loved the dress of many colors best.

Katanya helped her mother by sweeping out the house with her tiny broom.  She also cleaned between the boards of the floor, an easy task for someone so small.  While she did her chores, Katanya sang.  She had a voice as big and beautiful as a fully-grown girl’s.  Katanya’s voice filled the city with gladness, bringing joy to everyone who heard.

One day the prince was riding down the street when he heard a lovely song drifting from an open window.  He wished to meet the girl with this beautiful voice, and eventually, he did.  The king sent a servant to the house of the old woman and invited her to come with her daughter to the palace.

The next day, and many days after that, Katanya and her mother visited the palace.  Katanya became very close friends with the prince.  Finally, after many happy days together, they fell in love and were married.  Katanya became Princess Katanya, and at her wedding she wore her dress of many colors.  Her mother came to live at the palace, too, and they all lived happily ever after.

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Filed under Fairy Tale Retellings, Jewish Fairy Tales

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