Today I like: Carving pumpkins
Not so much: Fruit flies
There are so many fairytales out there– you’ve got Snow White and her vertically challenged friends, that narcoleptic chick, Rapunzel (hairy heroine) and Beauty (hairy hero). Pesky peas, frogs disguised as princes and princes disguised as paupers. So, it makes sense to ask…why did I choose to rewrite Cinderella?
Simple. Because Cinderella has become a part of our collective consciousness. It’s an idea that’s been burned into the feminine psyche: If only you’re kind, compliant and hardworking…someday it will all be…not just okay…wonderful. Wonderful forever.
The Cinderella story is a global tradition. One of the earliest recorded versions comes from China, circa 860AD. The tale of Ye Xian: a hardworking, beautiful young woman who befriends a fish. Unbeknownst to Ye Xian, the fish is the reincarnation of her mother. Why is her mother dead? Because Ye Xian’s nasty stepmother killed her! The fish helps her prepare for a festival, where she loses her shoe. The king uses the shoe to find her and, of course, he takes her for his bride.
The version of the tale most familiar to western audiences is that of Cendrillon, written by French author Charles Perrault in 1697. Perrault introduces the pumpkin coach, the animal assistants, the fairy godmother and the glass slippers. Perrault’s version is a bit more family friendly than Aschenputtel, the 19th century Cinderella story of the Brothers Grimm. Perrault’s Cinderella forgives her stepsisters and finds advantageous marriages for them. In the German rendition, pigeons peck out the eyes of both stepsisters. Grim, indeed.
These stories stretch from Russia to the Philippines, Vietnam to Scotland to Norway. Always with the same message: Things won’t always be like this. Just keep slogging away. Someday it will all be different. Be good, be good, and you’ll get your reward. Cinderella was forced on our great-grandmothers, our grandmothers, our mothers, ourselves, and now our daughters. We come to a low point in the 1950′s, when Disney’s Cinderella becomes so helpless and compliant that she must rely on mice to save her. Mice. At least give me a hot cartoon guy in tights, Walt. I mean, mice?
I have two young daughters. They drink the Disney Princess Kool-aid just like all little girls. (I swear whoever came up with the idea to package the Disney Princesses is a genuis…a feminist’s nightmare…but a genius just the same.) They worship at the alter of Bippity-Boppity-Boo. I cringed as they watched that movie. Yet I am guilty. I let them watch it. Why? Because, deep down, we all sort of love Cinderella. Most of us have felt a bit like her at times…outcast, overworked, lonely. Just wanting a happy ending.
So I decided to make her real. For the women my daughters will become, and for women who carry her story long past childhood. A real woman: brave, smart and opinionated…but at times insecure, naive, and stupidly romantic. A girl we can all relate to…in a fairytale world. That’s The Cracked Slipper.
Next time…more about The Cracked Slipper…and that lovely (absurd) idea…happily ever after.