Friday, May 18, 2012

With the Wave of a Wand

This. Was. Hard.

Fairy tales, fables, folk tales, myths - love them all. To the point I spent a year studying them in college. Symbolism, archetypes, psychology, story as parallel for the development of human kind, and culture, blah, blah, blah. What this boils down to is a confession that I've always had this soft spot for Cinderella. I know. I know. So not PC. Here I am, supposedly writing kick-ass heroines and I harbor secret sympathy for a doormat.

I prefer the unsanitized versions of the story. In those, Cinderella isn't the passenger Disney painted her to be. She fought for what she wanted. And when the prince came to try her shoe on the step sisters, their mother sliced off their heels or cut off their toes to make the shoe fit. The poor, deluded prince didn't figure out this ruse until someone pointed out the blood dripping out of the shoe. One hopes his highness rinsed that mess out of the glass slipper before trying it on anyone else.

And if it makes any difference, my sympathy isn't absolute. I started my own retelling of the story. Stopped when it became clear there just wasn't a market for that sort of thing anymore. In mine, Cinderella and her godmother are adherents of the Old Religion (paganism in this story) and the rest of the kingdom is largely Christianized. I'd wanted it to be about blending the old and the new - and maybe about bridging rifts. While there is some magic in my tucked-under-the-bed version, it isn't wave a magic wand and fix everything kind. It's the magic of loyalty and love and devotion - with a stray extrasensory ability thrown in for good measure. 
So why does it stick with me? I could give you loads of psychobabble about what all the symbols represent and I could dissect the revenge aspects of the story, but really? I think it's simpler than that - it was one of the first stories my parents read to my sister and me when we were little bitty kids. More than anything? It's the love of my folks taking the time to sit down with us and read to us that makes this story shine for me.


  1. Reading is a huge part of my family life. Both my girls are avid readers and good with it, I think in part because I read to them when they were little, every night at bedtime. We still read together, out loud. Terrific post.

  2. I think I have that version where the sisters cut off part of their foot. Cinderella is also guided by doves in that version and the doves peck out the sisters' eyes during the wedding if I remember correctly.