On January 5, REEEC welcomed the New Year with its first Slavic Story Time at the Urbana Free Library. Our center featured “Marishka’s Salt,” the Czech version of a world famous fairy tale familiar to the English-speaking world as “Love Like Salt.” The screening of this fable was followed by a sing-a-long of the Czech children’s song Šla nanynka do zelí and a craft, which gave children the opportunity to make a princess using the origami salt cellar template.
The version of the fairy tale REEEC presented tells the story of the youngest of three princesses, Marishka, who is evicted from her home by her father for comparing her love for him to salt. An old lady, everybody’s imaginary grandmother who is in fact a fairy in disguise, takes Marishka in and bequeaths the Kingdom of Salt on her. As the newly anointed queen, Marishka returns home to save her sick father and his subjects deprived of salt as a result of the fairy’s punishment.
The tale of how salt, the symbol of fertility, truth, wisdom, longevity and plenty in many cultures, is necessary for life and more important than riches was most famously reworked from Slovak into Czech by Božena Němcová, a writer participating in the Czech National Revival of the late 19th c. Němcová’s version was later adapted into the film Once upon a time there was a king (1955), which still figures as one of the traditional Christmas movie in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hailed as one of the best fairy tale movies of all times according to James Andrew Horton, the film acquired its popularity because it struck a balance between communist censors and popular taste, which was rare in the 1950s. The fairy tale also inspired Pavol Dobšinský, a late -19th c. collector of folklore also known as “the Slovak Hans Christian Andersen,” to write his novel the Salt Prince, which was also made into a movie in 1983.