Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Lighter Take on Cinderella For Me

Marcella and I both picked the same favorite fairy tale but we're literally the light and dark here. My favorite version of the tale is Drew Barrymore's wonderful film "Ever After." I so love that movie. I liked that it was given a very realistic twist, no fairy dust on anything, although Leonardo da Vinci made an acceptable substitute for the traditional godmother who fixes everything. I loved the way the aged descendant of the hero and heroine is telling the correct tale to the Brothers Grimm, surrounded by a few artifacts saved from the "once upon a time".

I also enjoyed parts of the recent Disney live action version of "Cinderella", primarily for the Fairy Godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter, who was SO good.  I thought that Disney got too carried away with designing the ball gown and that then rendered the waltz kind of ridiculous. The prince couldn't take her in his arms and dance properly.

I love the Rodgers & Hammerstein stage version of the tale, especially the TV broadcast with  Lesley Anne Warren in the title role. At one point in time I had all the songs in that musical memorized and could belt them out. (Shall I sing? No? Maybe later then...) I wanted to waltz with a handsome prince in that fabulous gown Ms. Warren wears. I love the comedic turn of the Wicked Stepsisters.

I don't enjoy the actual Disney cartoon version, oddly enough. Not enough Prince, not enough romance, too much evil stepmother....

Another fun take on the story is the 1987 movie "Maid To Order," with Ally Sheedy. If you haven't seen it, by all means hunt it down. The Fairy Godmother in that one is scary cool.

Music, magic, romance....

The oldest known recorded version of the story dates back to the 1st Century BCE and deals with an ancient Egyptian servant girl and her ornately decorated slippers. Horus the Falcon God steals one and gives it to Pharaoh, who of course knows he must find the owner and marry her. A lot of searching ensues and jealous servants trying to do the heroine out of her happily ever after, but eventually she puts the slipper on and becomes queen.

I've written two tales set in ancient Egypt with a bit of a Cinderella twist, In Priestess of the Nile, the heroine actually does have an evil stepmother, and her prince is Sobek the Crocodile God in human form. No shoes were involved but eventually there's a Happily Ever After in the Egyptian Afterlife. In Healer of the Nile, I cast Pharaoh in the role of Leonardo da Vinci or the Fairy Godmother, as he steps in to assist his friend Tadenhut to  persuade Mehyta the Healer to marry him. Here's part of the scene:

             “Mehyta the Healer?”
            “Yes.” She turned and dropped the seedlings she held as she faced a royal messenger, accompanied by a scribe, both wearing finer robes than most of the local nobility. Two immaculately dressed servants hovered behind, each holding one handle of a large, closed woven basket. A guard in crisp military uniform stood to the rear, hand on his sword.
            The scribe held a rolled papyrus out to her, tied with a scarlet thong, and stamped with Pharaoh’s cartouche in red wax. “I am personally charged by the Great One to deliver this to you.”
            She took it, but asked hesitantly, “Am I in some kind of trouble?” She touched the red seal hesitantly. “I can’t read.”
            The scribe nodded, as if her answer met his expectation. “The Great One commands your presence before him at the banquet tomorrow evening. You’re to dine in his company with the other invited guests and will be granted an audience later in the festivities. So says the scroll.”
            “I-I don’t know what to say. Why does he want to see me?”
            The scribe gave her a thin-lipped smile. “One doesn’t question the dictates of Pharaoh. And lesser men such as myself don’t attempt to interpret his wishes.”
            “No, of course not. I meant no disrespect. I’m only the village healer. I’ve nothing grand enough to wear, and I don’t want to give offense—”
            “The Great One has anticipated these matters.” The scribe gestured and the servants stepped forward. Placing the basket on the ground in front of Mehyta, the women removed the cover as the scribe and herald stood aside. The first maid withdrew a sparkling white sheath, finely pleated, and a girdle woven from golden and scarlet threads, embellished with tiny scarabs made from faience and turquoise. The second maid plucked an elegant wig from the basket, and a pair of gold scarab earrings. Last came a new pair of sandals, crafted from fine leather, turquoise lotus flowers set into the center strap. “He sends you these garments as his gift and requests you appear at the banquet wearing the proof of his generosity.”
            “Of course, I’d never dream of refusing.” Mehyta curled her fingers into fists, longing to touch the beautiful garments.
            The maids efficiently repacked the basket and at a nod from the scribe, carried it by the wooden handles into Mehyta’s hut.
            Light-headed, wondering what was in store for her, Mehyta realized the herald had more to say. “A litter and proper escort will be sent to fetch you at the appointed time.”
            “I’ll be ready.”
            “Are there any questions?” the scribe asked.
            Mehyta had so many questions crowding her mind, she couldn’t give voice to any of them, so she shook her head.
            The scribe leaned closer and patted her arm. “All will be well; have no fears. We bid you good day.” He and the herald walked away, the silent soldier behind them, rejoining the maids and marching up the road toward the estate house.

            Going inside, Mehyta approached the basket sitting on her hearth as if it contained live cobras instead of elaborate clothes and jewelry. Drawing her stool closer to the basket, she removed the lid, setting it aside with care. One at a time, she handled the beautifully made clothing and trinkets, examining each before laying them on her bed. Beneath the shoes she found a gauzy shawl the maids hadn’t displayed, fringed and embroidered with a pattern of lotus leaves. Wrapping it around herself, she slid her feet into the jeweled sandals and twirled for a moment. In a manner of speaking, Pharaoh had made magic just for her!

The story:
The story: When Pharaoh sends injured warrior Tadenhut home to die, his noble family asks Mehyta, the local healer, to ease his path to the Afterlife. Mehyta discovers he’s trapped between Life and Death, caught in the dreamspace. Touched by his fighting spirit and will to live, Mehyta vows to use all the powers Shai, god of fate, gave her. Together Tadenhut and the brave healer battle to overcome his injuries, as well as threats from devious family members. While struggling to rescue her patient, Mehyta comes to realize he matters more to her than any man ever has before. But even if his life can be saved, what do the omens say about a match between a highborn soldier and a simple healer?
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