|Illustrations by Timmins, J. S.
Once upon a time, in a Gothic landscape in the imagination of Beth Bracken, "a heart was broken." A mother on her death bed spoke these words: "Be good, my darling. Take care of your father and yourself. I love you." Her young daughter replied, "Oh, Mother!" With that, the woman died. Her daughter tried to manage the house, and to keep her spirits up as best she could,but it was not easy. "Winter came, and the snow spread a white sheet" over her mother's grave. When the first buds began to form on the trees, her father "had found another wife. She had two daughters. They were beautiful, but had vile hearts." No sooner had they moved in than Ella's father said to his new stepdaughters,"You ladies will share a room with my daughter. She'll help you feel at home here." But there were two stepsisters and only one Ella. Before she knew what hit her, they had not only taken over her room — but her wardrobe as well. They made her do all of the work, then mocked her for her dirty clothing. One of her new sisters was fat and the other thin. Both were as bitter as old vinegar. Now the skinny one said to Ella, "You're so filthy, I'm going to call you Cinderella!" and the fat one said," Ha! That's a good name for a disgusting girl." The months passed. One day the father, who was a merchant, announced that he was going to make an excursion into the city. Wanting to bring each of the girls a trinket, he asked them their pleasure. " Dresses! As many as you can fit into your carriage!" said the fat one. "Jewels! As many as you can fit into your pockets!" said the skinny one. But Cinderella said, "Father, bring me the first twig that knocks against your hat on the way home." And that is what he did. Cinderella planted that twig on her mother's grave. Every day, when she went to tend it, "she cried so much that her tears fell on the twig, and watered it. Soon, the twig became a handsome tree, budding with leaves and home to many kinds of birds. Still, it could not cure Cinderella's sadness." It happened one day that a courier from the palace was heard in the streets, calling," Hear ye! Hear ye! The king has issued a proclamation! A ball in his son's honor will take place in three days. Every young woman is invited, and the prince will choose a bride."So Cinderella got excited along with her stepsisters, thinking that she would go to the ball. But her stepmother soon dashed those hopes. "Covered in dust and dirt? The prince would be ashamed to see you." How could Cinderella ask such a thing, the stepmother wanted to know. But the girl pleaded so that she relented. Kind of. "Okay, I have a deal for you." she said. "See these seeds?" and she held up a large bowl of tiny seeds. With a cruel laugh she tossed them into the fireplace, and said, " If you can pick all of them out of the ashes, you can come with us." When Cinderella said, "But that's impossible!" this crone replied, " Then I'm afraid you're not going anywhere!" So Cinderella ran out to her tree and called, "Tame pigeons, turtledoves, and birds beneath the sky...come and help me!" And they did! Triumphant, she carried the bowl of seeds to her stepmother, but that twisted tongued liar now cast her promise away like trash. Jeering at the girl she said, "But Cinderella, you have nothing to wear. The prince would only laugh at you." And no matter how hard she pleaded, Cinderella soon realized that her stepmother's word was final. The woman and her two ugly daughters climbed into their coach and drove off, calling out chores for Cinderella to do while they were gone. She gave a deep sigh and said to herself, "I wish I could go!" That's when she heard a voice. It said, "But you can, my dear." It was her godmother, who was a fairy. To all Cinderella's questions, this kindly dowager said, "There's no time to explain! You wish to go to the ball don't you? Then I will help you. First, run into the garden and find me a pumpkin." The girl did so, and with a POOF! the fairy waved her wand over it and caused it to become a glittering carriage. Next, the fairy grabbed three large rats running by and said, "And a couple of these creatures will be very useful for you." She turned two of them into horses and the third into a coachman. But Cinderella still stood, looking dismayed. "What's wrong, Cinderella? Aren't you happy?" She sobbed, "Oh yes, Godmother! But must I wear these dirty rags?' The fairy answered, "I think I can fix that!" and flicked her wand. And Cinderella found herself dressed in a ball gown and a pair of pink glass slippers. All that her godmother asked in return was that she obey a midnight curfew. "I promise, Godmother." called Cinderella, as she rolled away in her golden coach. When she got to the palace, she caused quite a stir. The prince whispered to the king, who in turn, whispered to the queen. Non one knew who the mysterious beauty could be. The prince danced with her all evening. Suddenly, GONG! GONG! GONG! The clock began to strike the midnight hour and Cinderella remembered the promise she had made to her godmother. She fled from the party, "but she had left something behind." It was, of course, one of her shoes. Cinderella just barely made it home before her stepmother and sisters. They breezed in full of gossip about the lovely princess who had come, and how the prince simply could not keep his eyes off of her. "Really?" said Cinderella. And her stepmother said, "He was so sad when she left. The rest of the night he stared at the slipper she had worn." But when Cinderella asked the princess' name, no one could tell her. She smiled to herself. The next day, the courier was back. "Hear ye! Hear ye! To find his mysterious maiden, the prince will try her slipper on every woman in the kingdom! If the slipper fits a maiden, he will marry her!' Soon, the prince brought the slipper to Cinderella's house. 'Do any maidens live here?' he asked. 'Just my two daughters, your hightness. But one of them is sure your mystery princess", answered the stepmother, and she brought them out. First the skinny one tried the shoe on. "My heels are blistered from dancing so much!" she exclaimed, when it did not fit. Then the fat one had a try. " Uhn! My feet are swollen from dancing so much, your highness!" The prince looked around and saw another maiden he hadn't noticed before. "What about her?" he asked. "Our kitchen servant, Cinderella? You wouldn't want to be in the same room with her, your highness. She's filthy!" But the prince said, "I want everyone in my kingdom to try on the slipper. Cinderella may try it on too." So she did. And it fit! "It fits!" said the prince. "It fits?' said the stepmother. And the prince gently took Cinderella's hand in his, and asked her name. Then he told her how glad he was to find her again, and she blushed. As she stood before him in her rags, she knew that he really loved her. They were married the next day. As Cinderella's sisters and stepmother made their way to the palace, the skinny girl had second thoughts. "Maybe we shouldn't go to the wedding. We weren't invited, after all." But her mother said, "Foolish girls! If you're nice to Ella, perhaps she will invite us to live in the palace!" The sisters liked this idea, so they kept on walking. On the way, they noticed some doves perched by the side of the road. "Oh, look! What pretty birds!" said the stepmother. Just as she spoke, the birds flew at the three women, pecking their faces and clawing their hair. "Thus, for their wickedness, the sisters were punished." Their mother called out, "Run, girls!" and led her two spiteful daughters in a hasty retreat. "But Ell and the prince lived happily ever after."
From Cinderella: The Graphic Novel (Graphic Spin (Quality Paper)) Illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins. (2009) Minnesota: Stone Arch Books
Notes: This is an interesting mixture of Grimm and Perrualt. Bracken has lifted some lines directly from each of those versions. The hazel twig, seeds in the ashes to be sorted, and the birds that come and sort them, are straight out of Grimm. So is the ending, with the stepmother and sisters dodging from the birds. Bracken has deleted the blood: here the sisters do not submit to having a toe or heel cut off by their mother, as they do in Grimm. Nor do the pretty little birds peck out one eye from each sister on the way to church, and the other on the way back, as they do in Grimm. That story ends, "Thus they were punished with blindness for the rest of their lives, due to their wickedness and malice." The Perrault elements, also nearly word for word from the original, include the appearance of a fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage, and the glass slipper. The animals which transform into horses look like rats, here, as they are quite large, but they may be mice. Six mice becoming "dappled gray horses" is how Perrault told the tale. A rat was a coachman, and lizards served as footmen. The illustrations are fantastic, and the idea of Cinderella as graphic novel is spectacular! A nice, fresh perspective on this old, old story.
Montessori Connection: From Magical Transformations to Botanical and Zoological Metamorphosese
1. Read the story and pay close attention to Cinderella's transportation to the ball.
2. Is it possible for a mouse to become a horse? Could a pumpkin turn into a carriage?
3. Consider that a pumpkin plant loaded with many pumpkins begins as a pumpkin seed about as big as the tip of your little finger. If you have never watched seed sprout, plant some and watch them grow.
4. Have you ever seen photographs of embryos? Do you know that if you look at a photograph of a human embryo in its first few weeks it looks almost exactly like that of a mouse?
5. List everything that mice have in common with people. Example: both are mammals, have four limbs, eat seeds and nuts, care for their young.
6. Learn that the word metamorphosis means "a change of form", a complete change in the body from one state to another. More than one is plural, metamorphoses. Think of examples from nature: 1. seed to plant 2. embryo to baby 3. egg to tadpole to frog.