|A real glass slipper.|
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 www.goldenbooks.com. 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: http://www.royal.gov.uk/latestnewsanddiary/overview.aspx.