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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

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What does red corn signify in husking bees in "The Witch of Blackbird Pond"?

Quick answer:

After being disappointed by the first Thanksgiving in the book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Judith is excited to attend a husking bee. At the husking bee, she explains to Kit how much fun it is. It is also at the husking bee that Judith explains to Kit what red ears of corn mean. Whoever finds a red ear of corn can claim another person for a kiss. When Judith tells Kit she will be sure that William gets a red ear of corn, Kit blushes. Sure enough, by the end of the chapter, Judith tosses a red ear of corn into William's hands and he claims his forfeit from Kit.

Expert Answers

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In Chapter 13 in the book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Judith is excited about attending the husking bee. Unfortunately, Kit thinks it just sounds like more work, husking corn. However, Judith explains that autumn is truly the best time of the year because of the husking bees. Judith explains to Kit that husking bees are a time for gathering, singing along with fiddle music, and enjoying cider. In that context, husking doesn't even seem like work.

More importantly, Judith and Mercy discuss the red ears of corn. Whoever finds a red ear of corn can claim another person for a kiss. When Judith tells Kit she will be sure that William gets a red ear of corn, Kit blushes. Sure enough, by the end of the chapter, Judith tosses a red ear of corn into William's hands, and "Kit sat helpless, her cheeks on one, and then the laughter and the cheering left her giddy as William stepped resolutely forward to claim his forfeit" (Chap 13, last para). William is able to obtain his kiss after all.

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If you got a red ear of corn, you could claim a "forfeit" (a prize) of a kiss from the person of your choice. It was a party game, and a socially regulated way of letting young people get together a little bit, but not in a way that would get out of hand.

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