Wednesday, April 11

Grimmoire 21: Cinderella

Most decidedly not the Disney version.

No fairy godmother.
No pumpkins, no coaches, no mice.
The ball was a three-night gala.
No clock chiming at midnight.

The glass slipper was made of gold.
Cinderella's step-sisters each cut off parts of their feet in order to fit the slipper.

All these things that just get left behind in all the retellings, all this wonderful and weird and rich detail!

I cannot tell you how many times a week I see girls go straight to the princess books, many of them are under the age of five, all of them able to name the Disney princesses on sight. I think there ought to be a law that says you cannot buy young girls any books about princesses until after you've read the source material to them. Aloud. Fully explained.

Yes, tell them that when her rich father went on a trip that his stepdaughters requested he bring them back pearls and dresses but that Cinderella requested only a twig from a far-away tree that she would plant on her dead mother's grave where it will grow into a tree (explain how roots work, dearies) and how the tree grew and housed a bird that granted her wishes and prayers.

Read these small girls the story and point out that her father is rich -- she didn't need to dress in rags -- and that her self-sacrifices and obedience to her stepmother and stepsisters are what gave her strength of character. Remind them of these traits when these little princesses throw tantrums because their mothers will only buy them one or two princess books and not all of them. Point out that Cinderella only became a princess after a lengthy indentured servitude with a cruel stepmother who would make her pick out lentils thrown into the ashes of the fireplace. Maybe suggest that if these little princesses would like some more princess books they could volunteer to pick out a bowl of lentils themselves so that they know what it means to become a princess.

And here's a nice detail: In order to prevent Cinderella from running away after the third night of the gala festivities he has his servants coat the stairs with tar. This is how she loses her gold (not glass) slipper. Be sure to pause thoughtfully when relating the part about the stepsisters chopping off parts of their feet to fit the slipper they know isn't theirs. And for their wickedness and malice these stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by pigeons before and after the wedding ceremony.

Underscoring the ghastly behavior of the stepsisters equal to the story of Cinderella herself. Cinderella cannot be who she is (or becomes) without the adversity presented to her, and it is her reward, her cosmic justice if you will, that she not only gets the prince but that her sisters are deformed and mutilated for their actions without her wishing it upon them. These are not small lessons and if all a girl knows is that Cinder's stepsisters were ugly brats then there is little to learn from the tale other than "in the end she gets to wear pretty clothes all the time and dance" as one little girl I heard summarized it.

Yeah, that's what that story is all about.
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