Pennywinkle is a ghost story for kids about a little boy who is murdered by his stepmother. This old folktale from the Ozarks is sometimes called “The Wicked Stepmother” or “Mother, Mother, Don’t Step on Me”, but it is based on a classic fairytale called The Juniper Tree.
There was a little baby boy and a little girl who lived with their father and their wicked stepmother. When their father was at home, the stepmother pretended to be good to the children, but when he was gone, she was very mean to them.
One day, the stepmother was angry at her husband, so when he was gone from the home, she decided to take her revenge. The wicked woman killed the baby with a fire-shovel and cut off his head.
Then she skinned the baby just like a rabbit, cut it up just like a plucked chicken, and cooked it just like a nice hunk of roast beef.
When her husband came home that night, she set the meat on the table in front of him. He was still angry after their argument and he wasn’t speaking to her, so he didn’t ask what kind of meat it was.
The father sat down and ate every scrap of meat on his plate, then he picked the bones clean. When he was finished, the woman sent her stepdaughter out to bury the bones under the marble stone down by the river.
Nobody said a word all evening, so pretty soon they all went to bed, but they could not get to sleep. It seemed like they could hear the sound of something crawling around in the house and crying.
After a while, the man st up in bed and said, “Who’s there? What do you want?”
And then a little voice hollered back, “Pennywinkle! Pennywinkle! My Maw killed me, my Paw ate me, My sister buried my bones under a marble stone! Pennywinkle! Pennywinkle!”
When the father heard this, he wondered what it meant. He got out of bed and put on his coat. Then, he went down to the river and looked for the marble stone. He lifted it up and underneath, he found the baby’s bones.
The man was filled with rage. He sat there a while, sharpening his knife on the stone, then he walked back up to the house and cut his wife’s head off.
The next day, the father took some pieces of wood and built a little coffin. His daughter took the baby’s skull and bones out from under the marble stone, placed them in a little wooden coffin and buried them in the graveyard.