Cinderella

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While the Cinderella story is found orally in all parts of the world, most North American readers will be familiar with only two versions, from printed sources. The first of these, and by far the most popular, is Perrault’s 1697 reworking, complete with fairy godmother, pumpkin coach, and glass slipper. The less popular but more dynamic Grimm version has a more resourceful heroine who does without fairy godmothers and coaches and who makes her own curfew.” (133)

“Like most good folktales, ‘Cinderella’ functions on a number of levels of meaning and has several possible interpretations even at surface level. In the Grimm version, Cinderella’s stepsisters equal her in beauty but are ‘vile and black of heart’. More significant, they are interested in getting ahead and hope to do so by marrying the prince. …Cinderella herself is not primarily interested in meeting the prince or in gaining any material benefits … but wishes to escape the confines of her painfully narrow existence. She is rewarded with magic objects because she follows precisely the instructions of her dying mother. She wins the prince at least in part because she is not a manchaser, as are her stepsisters. One interpreter of the tale insists that the prince is merely a symbol for Cinderella’s well-deserved freedom and that marriage is not at all the point of the story (Kavablum 1973). In any case, her marriage signifies that she has managed to reject her subservient position and to take action in getting herself to the outside world, and that she has demonstrated her acceptance of maturity by entering into marriage.” (134)

“… the message of the Cinderella story that seems most relevant for modern girls and women concerns the rewards one is supposed to receive for being pretty, polite, and passive; the primary reward, of course, is marriage, and marriage to not just anyone but to a ‘prince,’ someone who can provide status and the material benefits of the beautiful life. As Simone de Beauvoir asks, ‘How, indeed, could the myth of Cinderella not keep all its vitality?’. Thus for this group the message of the tale shifts from Cinderella’s growing independence and maturity to the rewards she receives and how she receives them. In this kind of narrow interpretation, success for the female comes from being beautiful and from sitting around and waiting. It is ironic that Cinderella, the ultimate in humility and selflessness, becomes for such readers a woman who uses her beauty and [-137] personality to gain material success – and at the expense of other women. In this interpretation, there is little difference between Cinderella and her stepsisters, except that she is more ‘feminine’: unlike her openly ambitious sisters, she masks her real hopes for the future by just ‘sitting and waiting’ for everything to turn out happily ever after for all eternity.” (136-137)

Ref: (emphases in bold blue, mine) Kay F. Stone ‘The misuses of enchantment: controversies on the significance of fairy tales’ pp.125+ in

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