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from Reviews (ADR)
concerning La Bouillie de la comtesse Berthe

     Comtesse Bertha is one of several fairy tales that Dumas wrote or adapted for children, including La Jeunesse de Pierrot, and Histoire d'un Casse-Noisette. Comtesse Bertha is set in Germany, on the banks of the Rhine, in some indeterminate pre-modern fairy-tale time. The Countess and her husband are noted for their simplicity, virtue and good works. They would like to build a new castle, but they fear to disturb the elves (or dwarves) who live in the old castle, and bring them and their realm good luck. The couple are able to strike a bargain with the elves: the elves will depart from the old castle, and assist in constructing the new castle. In exchange, Countess Bertha and her descendents will give an annual feast for all the people of the neighborhood.
     The old castle is pulled down in record time, and the new castle is built (with the nocturnal assistance of the elves) in half the time predicted by the architect. (Dumas notes, in an aside, that customers should always double an architect's estimated time to completion). The Count and Countess give their annual feast for many years, until their death, and the tradition is continued by the Count's son. The Count's grandson, however, tries to escape his family obligation, only to encounter the ghost of Countess Bertha, who warns him of grave misfortune if he fails to continue the feast tradition. The grandson tries to shortchange the elves through various amusing expedients, all of which bring misfortune upon him, and he ultimately loses his kingdom to an invader.
     The invader also receives a visit from the ghost of the Countess, who advises him of his requirement to continue the feast. Instead, he employs an itinerant knight to rid him of the castle ghosts and elves. In an amusing dénouement, the invader and his knight are vanquished, the castle returns to its rightful holder, and the feast is continued by succeeding generations. (Very amusing, and recommended for children--much more accessible for modern children than Pierrot or Casse-Noisette).


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