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Fairy Tale: A Close Look at Cinderella

Different versions of the legendary folk tale Cinderella are told to children. This tale spun by master storytellers might have arisen from different cultural backgrounds, and lead scholars to scrutinize on the powerful parallelisms of various accounts of Cinderella. Naturally, one might ponder on the impact of this story and how it gained popularity especially on the younger set of population, as uncomplicated and child-like as it is. In 1697, Charles Perrault gave Cinderella its first variant with his version of Little Glass Slipper.

This is perhaps the closest to its contemporary version. However, Tuan Ch’Eng-Shih gives the earliest date of birth of Cinderella, as early as 850-860 AD with his Chinese Cinderella. The Grimm Brothers’ Aschenputtle in 1812 is the nearest to what Anne Sexton had most realistically interpreted and successfully put into prose. Giambattista Basile’s Cat Cinderella is termed as Cat because of the inhumane treatment to Zezolla or Cinderella. It depicts a child lost and constantly in search of finding a mother’s love.

(Basile) It also has the all time favorite Cinderella version: a golden book adaptation of Disney’s Cinderella by Campbell Grant. In “Transformations”, Anne Sexton’s book, Sexton took fairy tales to a higher level by portraying these myths in a more pragmatic picture. Sexton went as far as saying that “poetry should be a shock to the senses. It should almost hurt. ” Sexton’s troubling experiences might have made an influence into her writings. Realism and romanticism collided in a forceful manner as shown in Sexton’s Cinderella.

The impoverished penetrating the world of opulence and power earned Sexton’s sarcasm on the poem. A plumber winning the Sweepstakes, a nursemaid from diapers to Dior, a milkman from milk to martinis and the charwoman from mops to Bonwit Teller: these are the four individuals who by virtue of luck became fortunate to turn their lives in an opposite direction: becoming filthy rich. Sexton recounts the Grimm’s story as if it was her own but retains the major ideas. Cinderella, who lives with her father, cruel stepmother and two black hearted stepsisters, was made into a plain maid.

She was forgotten and neglected by her own father. One day, Cinderella planted a twig on her mother’s grave. From where the twig sprung; a nestled dove gave everything her heart desires. On the day of the ball, she managed to pick up lentils thrown on the floor with the dove’s assistance, a ploy by her stepmother to prevent her from going to the palace. At the ball, garbed in a golden gown with her feet encased in golden slippers, she was able to captivate the Prince’s heart as well as avoiding catching her stepsisters’ attention and disappearing in a pigeon house.

On the third day of the ball, her shoes got stuck in a wax. Undeterred by the disappearance of the unnamed dancing maiden, the prince searched the whole Kingdom by making ladies try on the slipper. Her evil stepsisters tried the slipper to fit by cutting some parts of their feet (heel and toes). Finally, when Cinderella puts on the slipper, it fits her perfectly. The sisters’ eyes were pecked by doves leaving empty holes. Prince Charming and Cinderella get married and lived happily ever after, never bothering with life’s small nuisances and difficulties of the real world.

(Sexton) The introduction of the fairy tale describes how good fortune makes a person’s disposition completely different: from utter misery to a life of prosperity. Cinderella is compared to these characters: the plumber, the milkman, the nursemaid and the charwoman at the beginning of the poem. “That story”, “That’s the way with stepmothers”, “which is no surprise”, and “as you all know” — these are some phrases taken from Sexton’s poems convey a no nonsense tone which tells us that we shouldn’t at all be surprised on the superficiality of human nature.

The amputations described in the line “and that is the way with amputation” imply the gruesome reality, as to the extent to which women would dare to go to fulfil fantasies. Later at the end of the poem, the central idea was implied as lacking the hardships and adversities in one’s life, which seem to be the epitome of ennui and predictability. This can be deduced from phrases such as “never bothered by diapers or dust”, “never arguing over the timing of an egg” and “never telling the same story twice”. (Sexton) Sarcastic humour was seen when hollow spots pecked from the stepsisters’ eyes, which were compared to soup spoons.

Sexton’s mocking tone was heard when she compared the ball to a marriage market and the prince feeling as though he was a shoe salesman while he was looking for the right girl. Some modern elements were thrown throughout the poem, with the mention of Al Johnson, jazz musician and the Bobssey twins. Sexton’s turbulent life led her to write such creations which amazingly produced award winning masterpieces. (Wagner-Martin) However, Giambattista Basile, Charles Perrault and even Campbell Grant’s versions are on similar wavelength.

First of all, they all had the happily ever after endings, second they communicate an air of predictability detached from reality and lastly, an unnerving fulfilment of one’s dreams without even having to toil for this new found fortune. The closest to have broken out the surface and the most popular would have been Grant’s version, Disney’s Cinderella. With the advent of film making, the cartoon version tells a tale of sacrifice, magic, love and finally the triumph of good over evil. (Disney, 103) Without thinking too much on the happily after ending idea, definitely this adaptation is the most suitable among all Cinderellas.

It’s fit to be told to children because it is not morbidly ominous as oppose to the Grimm Brothers’ version wherein there were scenes of cutting off parts of feet by the stepsisters to make the shoe fit, and pecking of eyes as a consequence of wickedness. These series of sinister scenes were left out of the Disney tale. It’s no wonder it became quite famous as a bedtime story told to children of various ages. It must have become popular to children because of the primary ideas of sibling rivalry, the protagonist winning over his adversaries and the victory of good over evil.

However, this is not simply a matter of reality peeking into our lives. It also talks on the gender issue. It seems women earlier were lacking empowerment as seen by Cinderella’s good fortune depending on the prince. Marriage was seen as a market wherein the highest bidder wins the contest as exemplified by the ball in Cinderella. Ladies from farthest ends of the kingdom were bedecked with fashionable gowns and ornaments to advertise their availability as future wife of the prince. This outdated idea that women should do household chores and men have the sole responsibility as a bread winner, however, is not any more applicable in our times.

(Fineman) In addition to this, the Cinderella concept has turned into grand celebrations of wedding with the help of advertising, media, product and fashion especially in most of the Western countries. The idea of complete happiness is continually measured through lavish weddings because it indicates expression of romantic love and once finding this love, an outlet of perfect demonstration would be expensive weddings, because marriage connotes a finality of romance and a transition towards marriage. (Otnes, 12)

Cinderella interpretations are relative to the individual’s point of view but it requires utmost sensitivity and in depth analysis to understand its implications. One’s fate should not be relied through magic and luck alone. The individual is solely responsible in creating his own destiny. It could be inferred that sometimes, life’s little inconveniences and hardships that people in fairytales are sheltered from, is the real essence of living. It is one’s raison d’etre. Works Cited Basile, Giambattista. “Stories from Pentamerone. ” Project Gutenberg Literary Archive .

Foundation. May 2008. <http://www. gutenberg. org/dirs/etext00/pntmn10. txt > Disney Walt/ Adapted by Grant, Campbell. Cinderella. USA: The Walt Disney Studio. 1979. . pp. 103-3. Fineman, Martha and Martha McCluskey. Feminism, Media and the Law. New York: Oxford . University Press, 1997. Lang, Andrew. The Blue Fairy Book. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. ,1889. pp. 64-71. Otnes, Cele and Elizabeth Pleck. Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. . .

California: University of California Press. 2003. Sexton, Anne. Cinderella. < http://www. americanpoems.com/poets/annesexton/563> Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Anne Sexton’s Life. ” Modern American Poetry. 2002. Dept. Of , English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 17 November 2006 Williams, Patricia J. “Hate Radio. ” Rooster’s Egg. USA: Harvard University Press. 1995.

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