Robin Redbreast

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cinderella #29 Walt Disney's Cinderella

A real glass slipper. 
Once upon a time, "in a faraway kingdom, there lived a widowed gentleman and his lovely daughter, Ella. Ella was a beautiful girl. She had golden hair, and her eyes were as blue as forget-me-nots. The gentleman was a kind and devoted father, and he gave Ella everything her heart desired. But he felt she needed a mother.  So he married again, choosing for his wife a woman who had two daughters. Their names were Anastasia and Drizella." Alas for Ella, her father died soon after, and she was alone with her stepmother, and her two new sisters. They were not very nice to her. "The stepmother gave Ella a little room in the attic, old rags to wear, and all the housework to do. Soon everyone called her Cinderella, because when she cleaned the fireplaces, she was covered with cinders.  But Cinderella had many friends. The old horse and Bruno the dog loved her. The mice loved her, too. She protected them from her Stepmother's nasty cat, Lucifer. Two of her favorite mice were Gus and Jaq. Cinderella was kind to everyone - even to Lucifer. But Lucifer took advantage of her kindness. " He chased those little mice right onto the table, as step mama was having breakfast! Oh how she screamed! And oh boy, was Cinderella in trouble. Meannwhile, "In another part of the kingdom, the King was worrying about his son. "It's high time he married and settled down!' he told the Grand Duke. 'But Sire', said the Grand Duke, 'we must be patient.' 'No buts about it! ' shouted the King. 'We'll have a ball tonight. It will be very romantic. Send out the invitations. " And so the Grand Duke did, and when one arrived at Cinderella's house, and she heard what it was all about, she said, " That means I can go too!".  And her stepmother agreed, on condition that Cinderella get all her chores done. And then, of course, she gave her so many extra chores that it was impossible for them to be finished. Unbeknownst to Cinderella, her friends the mice had " managed to find ribbons, sashes, ruffles and bows. The mice had sewn them to her party dress, and it looked beautiful." At least it did to the mice. To  the stepsisters, it looked like someone had taken their best notions for herself. They ripped that dress to shreds, and went off to the ball. Cinderella went into the garden and "wept and wept. Suddenly, a hush fell over the garden, and a cloud of lights began to twinkle and glow around Cinderella's head. " That's when she heard a kind voice, fretting about a magic wand, and offering to help her get tot the ball. She waved her wand and " A cloud of sparkles floated out over the garden. A pumpkin rose up and swelled into an elegant coach. The mice turned into horses, the old horse became a coachman, and Bruno became a footman. " And then it was Cinderella's turn for magic. After she reminded her fairy godmother that could not go dressed in rags, the kind old lady "turned the rags into an exquisite gown. On Cinderella's feet were tiny glass slippers." Away dashed the horses, and in an instant, Cinderella was at the palace gates. Inside, the prince was bored to tears by party his father had wanted him to attend. But when he saw this girl with the glass slippers, he was enchanted, and danced with no one else all evening. But suddenly, as the clock began to strike midnight, the girl fled. The prince called to her but she was gone. Only a little glass shoe was left behind.  Cinderella made it home just in time, and dashed to the attic before her sisters came in. The very next day, the stepmother announced that the "Grand Duke was coming to see them. 'He's been hunting all night for that girl - the one who lost her slipper. That girl shall be the prince's bride. Cinderella smiled, and hummed a waltz that had been played at the ball. The stepmother became susspicious. She locked Cinderella in her room. " That's when her little mice friends came to her rescue. While Anastasia and Drizella were trying the shoe on downstairs, the mice brought the key, very quietly, upstairs. They pushed it under the door, and Cinderella set herself free. She walked right out and asked, " May I try it on?'. The wicked stepmother fumed. She tripped the footman who was holding the glass slipper. It fell to the floor and broke into a thousand pieces. 'But you see, ' said Cinderella, reaching into her pocket, 'I have the other slipper." And of course it fit her perfectly! "From that moment on, everything was a dream come true...Cinderella and the prince were soon married. In her happiness, Cinderella didn't forget about her animal friends. They all moved into the castle with her. Everyone in the kingdom was delighted with the prince's new bride. And Cinderella and the prince lived happily ever after!"

Notes: Where to begin? First the good, then the bad, and then the just plain strange! This is the version of Cinderella that many American kids grow up with. It is also the version that many people love to hate, myself included. On the other hand, one could argue that reading a book, any book, is better than not reading a book. So: looking on the positive side: the book has a copyright date of 2005, is very widely available, and is published by Millions of children read these books and they are delightful in some ways, less so in others. I love many Golden Books, and I collect vintage editions. Among my favorites are Goldilocks and the Three Bears, (1948), illustrated by F. Fojankovsky; The Color Kittens (A Little Golden Book) (1949) by Margaret Wise Brown, and  The Bunny Book (Little Golden Book)(1960?) by Richard Scarry. As for this edition of Cinderella, I note three positive facts.
1. Archetypal images of animals are retained in the story. Especially relevant are the mice. More unusual choces are the the horse and the dog.  Mice are one of the traditional Cinderella helper animals, with deep symbolism.  Marie Louise von Franz, in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales, writes that in European culture, "mice belong to the devil, who is the ruler of mice and rats. " The naming of the cat Lucifer in this Disney version is therefore intriguing.  Additonally, von Franz states that in Germany, mice are considered "soul animals, and represent the unconscious personality of the human being."  (p. 87) If this is so, then we see that, far from being a helpless girl, Cinderella helped herself.  It is also interesting to note that in this version the mice were not released from a trap: they were already free pets, running around, and thus able to free Cinderella from the locked room. As for the transformation of the "old horse into a coachman" Disney might have reconsidered this had they known that Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage), says that , " both dangerous and helpful animals stand for our animal nature, our instinctual drives, " (p. 77), and that horses, " can stand for many different emotional needs which a girl is trying to satisfy. For example, by controlling this powerful animal, she can come to feel that she is controlling the male, or the sexually animalistic within herself." (p. 56). So, by having the trusty old horse turn into an actual man, Disney makes more explicit the growth of Cinderella from girl to young woman. In other words, she no longer is satisfied with her pets: she wants a real man, and she's going to the ball to find one!
2. Despite condensing and simplifying the plot, they have remained true to the Perrault Cindereall in many ways.
3. Maybe some children will read this book, and then have more familiarity with the story when they read better versions!
The Bad: 1. Blatant racism.  Since when does "golden hair and blue eyes" equal beauty? This is inexcusable in the 21st century, and description of Cinderella's appearance as anything other than "beautiful" is an add-on not found in other versions. For this reason alone, I do not recommend this book for classroom use.  On a bizarre note, there is some historical precedence for the golden hair, but, as related in my Cinderella #25, O Conto o'' Bella Pillosa, or The Hairy Belle, (1883, Naples, Italy) both Cinderella and her mother have "hair and teeth of gold"!
2. Ugly illustrations. I hope that Ron Dias and Bill Lorencz have greater talents than they were able to display here. Simplistic images, garish colors, and a general feeling of phoniness dominate. 3. An especially American ignorance of royalty, tradition, and protocol. To imagine the stepmother breaking the glass slipper out of spite, and not being thrown in the dungeon for it is silly.  And to portray the palace, the prince, and the entire idea of their existence as television-style fantasy is unfortunate.

Montessori Connection 6-12: Real Royalty
1. Learn about the American Revolution, and how a president is different from a king. Try reading Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, or The Brave Women and Children of the American Revolution (The Revolutionary War Library)
2. Learn about the real royalty of England. Prince William, his brother Prince Harry, and their father, Prince Charles are some of England's royals. Prince Charles' mother, Queen Elizabeth, is reigning now.  The boys' mother, Princess Diana,  died tragically when they were young, and now Prince William is grown up and getting married! Follow the wedding plans at: