Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cinderella #2 The Glass Slipper: France

Once upon a time in France lived a man and his  sweet natured girl child. Both were in grief over the death of the mother, yet the father married again.  His second wife had two daughters, proud and ill natured. Before long, the sweet girl had been reduced to servant wench, scouring and cleaning and sewing and cooking from morning till night. Then she would "sit in the chimney corner among the ashes and embers for warmth and because of this she was called Cinderella. " The years passed and the three sisters grew to be young ladies. News came that the king's son was giving a ball "to which all persons of fashion were invited." Cinderella longed to go and her step mother and sisters laughed rudely at the idea of it. The carriage bore them away in their finery and the poor girl was left to watch them go. Alone at last, she could stand it no more, and burst into tears. At that very moment her fairy godmother appeared beside her and asked why she cried so bitterly? The wish of wanting to dance and be beautiful was shared and the old lady said, " Well, you are a good girl and I shall see to it. Go into the garden and fetch me a pumpkin." This was brought and was scooped out to become a golden carriage.  Next came six mice from the trap. The fairy godmother tapped each with her wand and they became " a team of six dapple gray carriage horses." A fat rat was transformed into a "jolly coachman with splendid mustaches" and six dazzled lizards at once were changed into foot men in stylish livery. "There now" said the fairygodmother, as though all were ready. But Cinderella asked politely for some new clothes as well. With a tap "her rags became a beautiful ball gown  made of cloth of gold and silver, and all sparkling with jewels". For her feet a pair of " exquisite little glass slippers."Cinderella goes to the ball, though the warning about the magic wearing off at midnight rings in her ears. Yet she heeds the time, and when the clock strike eleven and three quarters, she runs home. The fairy godmother is waiting for her, and Cinderella thanks her prettily. Then she asks to be allowed to go again, as the second half of the party will happen the following night. Permission is granted, the magic is repeated, and again Cinderella has the prince's eyes glued to her the whole evening. And now she forgets the time! As the clock strikes midnight she runs, losing a slipper on the palace stairs. Fleeing the royal grounds, her clothes once again become rags. She sneaks into the house with moments to spare before her sisters are home, breathless with excitement over the news. The king's son has fallen in love with a mysterious princess who has lost a glass slipper! He will marry the girl who can wear the shoe,and his messengers are fanning out across the land. Every house in town is visited, with the glass slipper on a cushion. But no one can wear the shoe. Finally, they arrive at Cinderella's house. The rude sisters push and shove and try to cram their feet into the pretty little shoe. But their feet are too big. Noticing the dusty girl in the corner, the Chamberlain decides that she is pretty enough to have a turn, and so allows her, ashy though she is, to try the shoe on. It fits "as perfectly as if it had been molded to her foot in wax. " And now the fairy godmother appears again, taps Cinderella, and the lovely dress is upon her shoulders. The stepsisters curtsy to Cinderella, as she is led away to marry the King's Son. And then Cinderella "who was as good as she was beautiful, brought her sisters to the palace , and soon married them to two noblemen of the court. "( Illustrated by Hughes, S. , text by Lines. K. 1970. New York: Henry Z. Walk Inc.)

Notes: This is the version that Charles Perrault published in Paris in 1697, as part of a collection of 8 stories for children. He did not write the stories but recorded the folk version, likely ones he had grown up listening to himself. Because he was an educated man, he embellished the stories and may have changed some details; the use of a pumpkin for a coach may have been lifted from the European custom of carving large vegetable marrows into hollowed lanterns for carrying on All Hallow's Eve. The big controversy comes from the nature of the shoe here.  In this version there is no mention of squeezing, binding or cutting the feet to make them fit the shoes, as there is in many others. Perrault may have cleaned this detail up for the sake of childhood innocence, or there may have been an error in translation. Was the word verre, meaning glass, substituted for vair, meaning striped, perhaps of cloth? In any case, the shoe still had to fit so Cinderella could wear it.  Here the helper animals  are mice, a rat and lizards. Mice are recognized as soul animals in some cultures, believed to belong to the "boreal or winter phase of Apollo" and as the unconscious personality of a human being. Lizards are also believed to represent an element of the self,  an area of hidden introspection. (von Franz, Interpretation of Fairy Tales, p. 36, 63). Even though Perrault may have inserted the  fairy godmother character, you've got to admit the poor kid deserved one! After all, she suffered abuse for years, yet got her work done, didn't complain about a rat for a coachman and remembered to thank her fairy godmother for a lovely evening. Not too shabby for a motherless child! And if Marie Louise von Franz is right, and mice and lizards are symbolic of aspects of the girl's own self, then maybe Cinderella helped herself after all. Give the girl a little respect.

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