Fairy Tale Fails – Cinderella

Welcome to another exciting episode of Fairy Tale Fails! This week’s fairy tale is probably the most common of all of the tales, and has sparked many movie adaptations and even books based off the story: Cinderella. That’s why this post is going to be in two parts. One part discussing the story (that’s this post), the other discussing the book versus the most recent Disney live-action adaptation.

So let’s get started! I, for one, loved the old Disney Cinderella movie growing up. “Cinderelly! Cinderelly! Night and day it’s Cinderelly!” In fact, I’m pretty sure I sang that particular line over and over again in line to see the new Cinderella. My boyfriend must really love me to stick around after a) seeing Into the Woods and hating it, even though I loved it, b) THEN agreeing to see Cinderella in theaters even though I’m sure he was positive he’d hate it and c) standing in line for a long time before we could enter the movie with me singing an annoying line of an old Disney song in the voices of Jaq and Gus the mice.

That said though, in recent years it’s become one of my least favorite Disney Princess movies, mostly for the same reason I don’t care for Snow White – she doesn’t really have a wide range of self-anything. It’s all about waiting for a prince to come and take her away. And when she does get a prince to come and take her away, it’s like her life is just about this new prince. There’s nothing that says that she enjoys knitting, or gardening, or playing basketball. It’s all about being rescued by a prince. And in no way does the prince ever say “you know what, lady. I see that you’ve been treated poorly. I want you to know that I’d never treat you poorly, and I want to marry you.” No. Instead he says, “I’ll marry whomever this shoe fits!” and she’s all for it!

What if her feet were swollen the day he came around because she’d been dancing all night in glass shoes? Her foot wouldn’t fit the shoe, and he’d go find someone else. It seems foolish that he’d find someone who’s foot fits the shoe and doesn’t look anything like the person he met the previous night, but marry her anyway because her feet were the right size. Bizarre.

So we know the basic story, a girl is living happily with her parents when her mother dies. Her father finally gets a new wife, and that wife comes with two daughters. The father dies and the stepmother runs the house. The girls are cruel and force Cinderella to clean, cook, and take care of everything as a peasant even though she’s the rightful heir to the home. The king announces a ball in which the young prince will choose his new bride. Cinderella wants to go, but is told that she can only go if she does a whole bunch of chores and is ready on time. She does get everything done on time, but the stepmother and daughters tear her clothes to shreds and tell her she cant come.

That’s when her fairy godmother shows up and gives her a beautiful dress and shoes, and a giant carriage, complete with manservants, and goes to the ball with the condition she back at midnight. She goes, she and the prince dance, she loses track of time and as she’s running down the castle steps, one of her glass slippers falls off and she keeps running. The prince sets out to find the foot that fits the shoe, and tries the shoes on the stepdaughters to no avail, but hears Cinderella singing and demands she be brought down to him. The shoe fits and they live happily ever after.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales published their version of the story in 1812, originally told by Giambattista Basile in 1634. The original Basile version was about a girl named Zezolla. In this version, she is the daughter of prince who has married a governess. The prince goes away and meets a fairy who gives him presents for Zezolla and the governess’s two daughters, who have turned Zezolla into their servant. One of the presents the prince brings back is a seed. Zezolla plants the seed and soon a tree grows. The King hosts a ball and a fairy living in the tree dresses Zezolla beautifully to attend. The king knows instantly that he loves her, but she escapes him twice. The third time she attends the ball she accidentally leaves her shoe behind. The king hosts a feast to have all the ladies try on the shoes, and when Zezolla comes near the shoe magically leaves his hand and returns to her foot. They marry.

The 1812 version is different, much more similar to the story we know now. In Grimm’s version, Cinderella, or technically Aschenputtel, German for “Ashfool,” is the daughter a wealthy man. When her mother gets sick she tells Cinderella (NOTE: I’m saying Cinderella because I’m no Ashfool. There’s no way I’m writing that insanely long name a ton of times. It’s Cinderella) that she should be kind and trust in God. The mother dies and the father remarries to a woman with two daughters, and they force her into being their servant. Here’s the difference though – the dad doesn’t die!! The dad is still there, going about his business, not caring that his daughter is now his servant. What?! INEXCUSABLE, SIR, INEXCUSABLE.

So Cinderella lives like this for a little while with only little white birds to keep her company, and then her father goes out and asks what the girls want as a present when he returns. She says “whatever twig hits your hat first.” He obliges. When he gives her the twig, she goes to her mothers grave and puts it on top, crying on it. Her tears make the twig turn into a tree, and every time Cinderella prays to the tree, the little doves flutter around it. She takes the birds as a sign from her mother in Heaven that they will protect her.

Finally the King says that the prince will be hosting a three-day ball, after which he will choose his bride. Cinderella begs her family to let her attend but her stepmother throws a bag of lentil on the floor and says that she can go, only if she can clean up every last piece of lentil she just threw down. With the help of the doves, she manages to pick up every piece of lentil in record time. The stepmother is displeased and tells her to do it again, throwing down even more lentils than the last time. The stepmother really doesn’t want her to go with them, so she grabs the stepdaughters and they leave without her while she’s cleaning.

Upset, she goes to the graveyard to visit her mother and a dove drops down a beautiful gown and silk shoes, along with a note saying that she has to be back before midnight. She dances with the prince, but leaves before the clock strikes twelve. The next night, the doves bring Cinderella another gown and glass shoes. Once again she entrances the prince, but leaves before midnight. On the third night, the prince refuses to lose her again so he puts tar on the steps so she wont be able to leave. Her golden slipper gets caught in the tar, but she leaves it behind and runs, safe at home.

The prince wants to find this mystery woman, so he sets out to marry the woman whose foot fits the slipper. He arrives at Cinderella’s house where the prince puts the slipper on the eldest daughter. It fits, and he takes her to ride back to the castle. On the way, the dove whispers in his ear that she cut off her toes so that the shoe would fit. He checks her foot and sees the blood. The prince brings her back, asking for the youngest stepdaughter, he puts the shoe on her foot and it fits. Unbeknownst to him, she cut off part of her heel to fit into the foot. On their way back to the castle the dove intervenes again, and upon seeing the blood from the second daughter’s foot, he returns to the house once more. This time, he speaks with Cinderella’s father who tells them that they only have a maid. A maid! He doesn’t even say it’s his daughter! He just calls her the maid! What a jerk.

Anyway, the prince finds this “maid” and puts on the slipper and he knows it’s the same woman from the ball, so they go to marry. Cinderella wants to be nice though and she asks the stepdaughters to be her maids of honor. On the way over to the ceremony, though, the dove pokes one eye out of each of the daughters heads, turning them partially blind. After the ceremony, the dove plucks out the other eyes, rendering them completely blind. The end.

Here’s my issue with this – well, one issue with this – the dad is still alive and treats his daughter like absolute crap!!! I can understand in the other versions, the parents die, the stepmother never wanted the other girl in the first place so she’s a dick to Cinderella and makes her a servant. But if the dad is still alive surely he’d be nicer to his own daughter (and don’t call me Shirley). Omitting all the other faults in this story: the magic tree, the doves that act as little angels sent from her mom in Heaven, the prince and his stupidity, vanity, and just all around lameness. This one plot snag peeves me off more than anything else.

I did some research and it’s actually speculated that the dad isn’t her biological father. That the daughter was the wife’s child before marriage. Even so, at the point of the mother’s death, Cinderella is still a child which means he had Cinderella since she was a baby, you’d think that would make you feel more like a father to her and not want her to be your servant. You’d think. Granted, I don’t have kids. Maybe parents do want their kids to be servants. I’m pretty sure that’s what my parents wanted.

Alas, that concludes part one of the Cinderella edition of Fairy Tale Fails. Book vs Movie: Cinderella is up next!

Until then! Happy reading!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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