Once upon a time, "in a land much like our own" there lived a girl named Greta. She and her dad lived alone because her mother had died a long time ago. When Greta was grown, her dad went into the city for an important meeting. He said he'd be back in two days but actually, it was two weeks before he got back! He was kind of forgetful about details, although a nice enough man. When he came back Greta got a really big surprise: dad had a new wife and the wife had two daughters. They were horrible and had long names that both began with E. " Elvira was as wicked as Ermintrude was dim, and Ernintrude was very, very dim." All three of them were greedy and mean. First they took Greta's best clothes, and then they moved her out of her bedroom and made her sleep in the kitchen. Naturally, since she slept on the floor her face got dirty, so the rest of the family began to call her Cinderella. Even her dad. It goes without saying that they made Cinderella do all the hardest work in the house, but at least she got to listen to the radio while she cleaned. An announcement came over the airwaves that the king was holding a ball for his son, Prince Roderick. (This didn't mean that he had a big, red rubber bouncy thing in his hands, and that he was going to let his son have a turn with it. No. It meant a fancy party, with dancing. ) And, the radio announcer said, the reason was so that all the girls would come to the palace so that Roderick could choose one of them to marry. Of course Greta ran to tell her step mother and step sisters the exciting news, and of course they made sure that she would be too busy, too tired and too dirty to go. Instead they ordered her around and had her do their makeup, brush their hair, and get their dresses ready. As her haughty step mother strode past in her white cape, with its huge puffed fur collar, the step daughters shot Great dirty looks. Their high heels clicked down the hallway as they went out the front door, then clacked down the front stairs. Greta watched while the chauffeur held the door open as they all climbed into the big, green Rolls Royce and drove off. Alone, Greta let the tears flow into the dish water as she washed the delicate teacups and saucers. And suddenly, she heard a voice! " You shall go to the ball. Go outside and fetch a stout gray rat, a large leek, four white mice, and two gloworms, and leave them in the driveway. " said the nice old lady who was hovering at the ceiling. Greta could see right through her! But she went ahead and got those things she had been asked for. The old lady met her outside and chanted, " Magic, magic work on all! Get Cinderella to the ball!". That's when Cinderella heard the sound of a car coming down the road. There was a long WHITE Rolls Royce, with ANOTHER chauffeur, this one just for her! As she hopped into the car she felt a swish and looked down to see that her dirty old work dress had become a skinny strapped, plunge badcked, white, chiffon gown with the kind of cape that is the sheerest silk, attached to one wrist like a bracelet. Her shoes were now a pair of glass slippers. As the car zoomed away from the curb, she heard her fairy godmother give her a midnight curfew. The party had already begun at the palace, and Roderick was already bored. He'd checked out all of the girls already and none of them had anything interesting to talk about. And that's when Cinderella walked in in her spike heeled glass shoes. Prince Roderick invited her to dance the Tango, and they talked nonstop while they danced. Suddenly, the clock began to strike twelve. You know what that meant. In her scramble down the palace stairs Cinderella tripped and stumbled. Her dress reverted to rags,and one shoe fell down the stairs. She managed to grab the other one and stuff it into her pocket while she ran back to the parking lot. Sure enough, there were a rat, the leek, the mice and the glowworms which had made up the car. Greta gathered them up and ran home. Meanwhile, back at the ball, Roderick glowered while everyone else watched the fireworks. Why had that girl run away and how could he find her? Another radio announcement seemed like a good idea, so he had one made telling everyone that he was bring a little glass slipper around town for all the girls to try on the next day. Of course the stepmother made Cinderella do the laundry - and they did not have a washing machine and a dryer- to keep her out of the way. Ermintrude and Elvira got ready for the prince. When he got there, oh how those two tried to get that little shoe on their feet. But Elvira's were too wide and Ermintrude's were too long. They sat on red velvet chairs, their legs crossed, bracelets jangling on their wrists as they tapped nervously, while the epaulettes on Roderick's shoulders began to droop. That's when Cinderella's dad said, "Why not let Cinderella try?" His wife and stepdaughters rolled their eyes in disgust, but the prince thought it was a god idea. He helped her sit down on the sofa, and watched while she slipped the glass slipper onto her foot. It fit perfectly! They were married shortly thereafter. Cinderella, who decided that the name wasn't so bad after all, invited them to the wedding and "they almost behaved themselves."
Notes: This retelling, Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story, is a twist on the Charles Perrault Cinderella, substituting a leek for the pumkin. The book is lavishly illustrated with historically accurate clothing, jewelry, cars and accessories. From the ultra pointy toed shoes to the tiaras and beaded necklaces, the spiral stair cases and grand pianos, you know you are in New York of the 1920's and '30's and that Cinderella had dreamed of becoming a movie star!
Montessori connection: A study of the Fundamental Needs includes researching clothing of different eras, and this is an excellent opportunity to get an introduction to this era. The focus could be on shoes, including the history of very high heels. Or on men's clothing, including military uniforms and the tradition of wearing hats. Transportation and communication are two more of the fundamental needs. A study of the automobile throughout history, especially of the Rolls Royce, can be started. Radios and the beginnings of modern communication technology are another interesting feature for study. Finally, if you are hunting for more compound words try: anything, straightaway, outshone, makeup, hopeless and glowworms.
If you are in need of a guideline for the scope and sequence of the Montessori Elementary curriculum, the Montessori Teacher's Collective has a great one.
The world-wide Cinderella story, Montessori education, and connections with archetypal imagery are explored in this blog. It strives to promote a love of reading, especially of fairy tales.