December 14, 2013

BtGS Winner: The Poor Miller and the Cat, By Lelia Rose Foreman

Editor's note: Lelia's take on "Kisa the Cat," from Beyond the Glass Slipper, was such a sweet, wise fable, I could not resist it!
 
Once upon a time, a poor miller was walking down the road. You might wonder how a miller could be poor. Easy enough, anybody with a father who drinks and gambles away his wealth can also inherit debt. The poor miller had also inherited a tumbledown house and a tumbledown mill. So he was walking down the road looking for wood to repair his tumbledown mill when he came upon some cruel children hitting a cat with sticks.
 
The poor miller snatched a stick from one of the children and waved it at them. “You should only pick on people your own size.”
 
The boy whose stick he had taken shouted, “You are larger than us.”
 
The poor miller said, “Why, so I am. If you hit that cat one more time, I will kill you.”
 
The children ran away as fast as their legs could carry them.
 
The poor miller picked up the cat and carried her home. He tended her wounds and gave her the last of his food.
 
The next morning, the cat told the poor miller, “I will make you a wealthy man.”
 
The poor miller told the cat, “I will be happy enough if you keep the mice away from my grain and flour.”
 
The cat laid upon the doorstep a rabbit and some starlings. The miller made a stew of them and revived himself. The cat then showed the miller where a lord had stockpiled wood for a summer home which the lord abandoned when he was called away to a war and never returned. The miller used the wood to repair his mill and the cat kept the mice away from the grain and flour.
 
Time went by as time does, and one day the cat brought in a basketful of kittens.
 
The miller said, “Cat, you were supposed to make me a wealthy man, but here you have brought me more mouths to feed.”
 
The cat said, “There is still time. You must buy the cow down the lane so my kittens will have enough milk.”
 
The miller said, “Spending money is not making money.” But he went and bought the cow down the lane. Soon they had enough milk and more than enough.
 
Time went by as time does, and the cow gave the miller milk and fertilizer and more cows.
The miller said, “Cat, you were supposed to make me a wealthy man. Instead, I am working from before the sun rises until after the sun sets.
 
The cat said, “There is still time. You must marry the sweet girl down the lane.
 
The miller said, “That will take money, not make money.” But he was pleased with the advice and married the sweet girl down the lane.
 
Time went by as time does, and the sweet wife gave the miller a son, and then a daughter, and then another son.
 
The miller said, “Cat, you were supposed to make me a wealthy man, but here I am with more mouths to feed.”
 
The cat said, “There is still time. You must buy the oxen down the lane and enlarge your fields.”
 
The miller said, “That is spending money, not making money,” but he bought the oxen and enlarged his fields. The cat and kittens kept his barns and fields free of rats and birds. The mice could not eat the miller’s flour for the kittens ate the mice first. Soon they had enough food and more than enough.
 
Time went by as time does, and the day came when the miller sat upon a mill step to catch his breath and the cat settled upon his lap. The miller said, “Old Cat, you were supposed to make me a wealthy man.”
 
The old cat said, “You are a wealthy man.”
 
The miller looked up at his barns and fields with his children working in them, his sweet wife churning butter on the porch, the mean children who had grown up to become his servants, and the house he had enlarged to hold his children. “Why, Old Cat, so I am.”
 
With that, the old cat purred once, twice, thrice, and died.
 
The miller buried the old cat with honors, and had much consolation from his sweet wife, his children, and multitudes of kittens.
 
"Cat's Chorus," by Louis Wain, artmagick.com
Lelia Rose Foreman lives in her empty nest with pediatric dentist husband, chickens, and two very stupid dogs. She tries to get books to Rwanda.

6 comments

  1. What a sweet wonderful tale! Perfect for the holiday season as well.

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  2. Never doubt a cat! Beautiful story!

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  3. Such a perfect, heartwarming story :)

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  4. Love the ending--I know my cats make me rich:)

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  5. This reimagining of “Kisa the Cat” maintains Kisa’s demeanor but I see this story as more of a standalone tale rather than a variation of Kisa; whereas Kisa performs good deeds for the princess, this cat takes a more passive role by advising the man to his fortune; it reminds me a bit of Puss from “Puss In Boots,” in the way that the cat is instructing the human on how to succeed. The dynamic of power here is that the bigger human outranks the child who outranks the cat; and moreover, the human seems to be capable of making it further with his successes than the cat. This story utilizes that idea to construct a commentary on positions of power – the human has the power but the cat is the one that knows how to truly optimize that power. The original “Kisa the Cat” circumvents this by making Kisa a human in a cat’s body, and indeed she plays a more active part in that story. “The Three Pennies” is another fairy tale which mirrors this one’s progression, a nonhuman (ghost in that case) directs a human to find their own fortune as gratitude for the human’s initial good deeds. So in these fairy tales the humans have the ability to obtain the fortunes, but knowing is the other half of the battle and others sometimes need to pass their knowledge on.

    --Dylan Richardson

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  6. I liked this tale because it was one of genuine wealth and servitude. The cat coached the miller through life to wealth for the simple fact that he helped the cat from some very naughty children; similar to “The Three Pennies”, where the ghost helps the soldier for simply preventing the other men from digging up his body. The miller has not inherited much from his father, a broken home and a broken mill, so when the cat mentions wealth, it is expected in the form of money and riches. The best part of this story is that it doesn’t. The miller’s wealth comes from the work that he did and the life that he built for himself. While it was accomplished with the aid of a close friend, the miller was able to take ownership of what he had created. The important thing to take from this story is that the wealth that you achieve in working hard and doing things for yourself is far more rewarding than that which is just handed to you.
    -Tak

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