Wikipedia Wednesdays - Mossycoat


Finally, a page I find legitimately interesting. Mossycoat is an old British fairytale supposedly told to author Katherine M. Briggs by a passing gypsy in 1915. It, uh… well, it’s not very good. Unlike most really old fairy tales, there is no senseless violence, or incest, or cannibalism, or sentient foodstuffs (unlike my personal favorite, The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, which has three of the four). All this offers is a boring and pointless Cinderella rip-off, with unimportant and unnecessary characters and plot devices thrown in.

It can be summarized thusly: once upon a time, there lived a young girl with her mother. This mother spent the better part of the girl’s life sewing a magical coat made of moss (hence the title). One day, an ugly hawker (which is not, as I initially thought, a man who trains hawks, but a door-to-door salesman) came by the house. He hit on the young girl who, disgusted, told him that she would consider marrying him only if he would give her two beautiful dresses and a fancy pair of shoes (I imagine Rupert Murdoch’s wife married for similar reasons).

The hawker did so, but by the time he finished, the girl’s mother had completed the titular mossy coat and given it to her daughter. For some reason, she also told her daughter that, from that point on, her name was to be Mossycoat. She named her daughter after an article of clothing. And people think consumerism is bad nowadays. Anywho, our protagonist Mossycoat, in order to escape from the hawker (who, mind you, is but a poor salesman, and not exactly in a position to force Mossycoat into a marriage), uses the coat to magic herself to a manor house way the hell away from her mother and the man (neither of whom are ever mentioned again).

She gets a job as a servant in the kitchen and (obviously) is immediately harasses by every single other worker there, for no good reason. They frequently hit her on the head with the skimmer (the story is quite specific about this – mentioning exactly what body part of hers is being struck, and with what object). Luckily, the big festival soon arrives, and everyone is invited. Mossycoat doesn’t consider going, of course, even after her master asks her, and her co-servants inform her that she’s far too ugly to go.

For no real reason, she changes her mind the next day, putting on her shoes and dress and makeup before using the magic coat to put the servants to sleep and teleport to the dance. She dances with her master, who doesn’t recognize her (naturally), but leaves before telling him her true identity – supposedly because she’s too modest, but if you ask me, because she’s too idiotic. Upon teleporting back to the kitchen, she wakes up the servants, who act super nice to her so that she won’t rat them out for sleeping on the job (though, given that their masters are all at the festival, and one of them was actually invited to said festival, it makes little sense for them to have to work that night).

Mossycoat does the exact same thing the next night, wearing her other dress. For some reason, none of the kitchen workers find it at all suspicious that they all fell asleep, against their will, at the exact same time, two nights in a row. This time, after dancing with her master and again failing to tell him anything about herself for no good reason (given that he invited her to the dance), she somehow leaves behind one of her shoes while teleporting back to the kitchen. Again she wakes up her co-servants, and again they ask her not to tell the master that they were sleeping, for some reason.

You can see where this is going, right? Her master finds the shoe, tries to put it on every woman in the land, and consistently failing until he eventually fits it on Mossycoat (not recognizing her until after he tests her foot size, because I guess he’s into that sort of thing). The two of them marry, and Mossycoat tells him to fire his servants because they were mean to her (leaving out the part where she rendered each one unconscious).

So that’s Mossycoat – basically Cinderella, but with a much more convoluted explanation for her behavior at the party. Also, instead of being enslaved and abused by her wicked stepfamily, she is offered indentured servitude by her future husband and abused by her fellow servants. Slight distinction.

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