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Literature / Cap o' Rushes

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Cap O' Rushes is an English Fairy Tale collected by Joseph Jacobs (in English Fairy Tales).

A rich man asked his daughters how much they loved him. The oldest said, more than her life; the next, like the whole world; the youngest, like meat loves salt. Believing the youngest daughter's statement to be vulgar rather than flattering, he flew into a rage and threw her out. While wandering in the wilds, the girl made herself a cloak with a hood, out of rushes, to hide her fine clothing.

Eventually, the girl found a great house where she begged a job scrubbing the dishes, and because she gave them no name, they called her "Cap O' Rushes," due to her cloak. One night, the house held a ball and Cap O' Rushes sneaked into the party by taking off her cloak so her fine clothes were on full display. The master's son saw her at the ball and fell in love with her, but was unable to get out of her who she was. After they met at two more balls, he gave her a ring. When the son still could not find her, he fell sick.

The sick son was served gruel on his sick bed, and after Cap O' Rushes persuaded the cook to have her make the gruel for him, she was able to put the ring into the gruel bowl, allowing the son to find her and marry her. At the wedding party, Cap O' Rushes told the cook to make the meal without any salt. This left all the dishes without flavour, and her father, who turned out to be amongst the guests, started to weep because he now realised what his daughter had meant, and he feared she was dead. Cap O' Rushes then revealed herself as his daughter and forgave him, and they all lived Happily Ever After.

Other variants of the persecuted heroine include Cinderella, Donkeyskin, Catskin, and Tattercoats; this one belongs to the subgroup that uses the "Love Like Salt" motif that William Shakespeare lifted for King Lear. See also The One-Handed Girl for a different tale type with a male persecutor.

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