Robin Redbreast

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cinderella #286 by David Delamare


Cinderella #286 by David Delamare
Illustration by
David Delamare
Once upon a time, in Italy, "a young merchant in search of his fortune moved with his wife and baby daughter to a fantastic city".  The streets were made of water, and curved and gurgled through town. His luck was good and his business savvy strong; he prospered. As his child grew so did his wealth.  He bought a fabulous grand house, and outfitted it with every convenience for his family.  All that his wife and little Ella lacked was "the merchant himself.  He came home only once a year, when autumn winds and tides brought his ship back from the Far East." The years passed and soon a celebration for Ella's 16th birthday was being planned. It was to be a grand affair with "a traveling circus with acrobats, clowns, a magician, a fire-eater..." There were even monkeys who "swung from bush to bush by their tails...and even a baby elephant to ride!" Yet Ella was keenly aware of her father's absence. She determined to make the best of it and enjoy the day, and, as she gazed out the window, she saw "a gondola drift slowly by.  A boy her own age leaned on its railings, longingly watching the party."  He smiled wistfully as he passed and then he had sailed on.  Later, her dear mother came to speak with her, knowing of her sadness.  But when Ella answered, she spoke not of her father's absence but the mysterious boy on the gondola. That's when her mother told her that "That boy is young Duke Fidelio, son of the Grand Duke. One day, he may be Grand Duke himself." Then mother hugged daughter, each  holding the other tightly, lost in her own sorrow.  The very next day Ella's mother fell ill. Despite urgent messages sent to her father, he could not be alerted. By the time he finally returned home, his wife was dead. With no other means of caring for Ella, he send her away to a school. This was hard for her but worse times were coming soon. After only two years at school, her father summoned her home, telling her that he had joyous news. He had taken a second wife, a lady with two young daughters just older than Ella. Their names were Livia and Zenobia, and they were as unpleasant as two stepsisters can be. When it happened one day that "a messenger delivered a scroll" inviting all young ladies to "a masked ball", there was a flutter of excitement, But when Ella asked her stepmother if she might go too the woman snapped at her. "Rude girl! What do you mean by interrupting?" Then she doubled Ella's chores, and taunted her by saying, "Of course you may go, IF you have all your chores done in time!". And Zenobia and Livia repeated, in an ugly sing-song, "Done in time! Done in time!" And of course she did not. When the big night came, and the stepfamily had finally gone, Ella sat alone and wept. Suddenly, "a tiny, winged woman hovered" before her, saying, "Don't cry, daughter." It was her "fairy-mother", called forth by Ella's tears. She told the girl that she could go, and asked her to bring a large pumpkin. When Ella did so, the fairy "clapped her hands over the pumpkin", causing it to swell "like a balloon.  [Then] it floated over the balcony railing and dropped into the canal with a splash." When a fish leapt up, it was transformed into "a gondolier in a velvet-and-lace waistcoat". Then in a twinkling, the fairy mother changed Ella's clothes into "a glittering, beaded gown. On her feet a pair of tiny glass slippers sparkled in the moonlight." With a hasty promise to be back by midnight, Ella departed. Of course the young duke could not take his eyes off of her, and of course Ella forgot the time. That is why she lost a slipper running away, and why the duke held it tightly as a clue to her identity. Within days, Stepmother answered a knock at the door, and found a messenger from the Duke. He was bearing a tiny glass slipper on a pillow, and  asked the resident ladies to try it on. So Zenobia "pushed her toes into it. She grunted and groaned" but no matter what, she could not make the shoe fit. So her sister Livia "shoved her toes into it...Suddenly, with a sharp crack, the slipper shattered into a thousand pieces." The page was horrified. He wailed, "Now Duke Fidelio will never find his true love! I'm afraid his heart may shatter just like the slipper." But that is when Ella "took the other glass slipper from her apron pocket, sat down, and slid her foot easily into the slipper." The page ran out to signal the Duke by running "to the garden and set[ting] a torch blazing that could be seen from the palace across the canal."  A gondola was dispatched at once, and the young Duke himself brought over. "So it was you!' he exclaimed" when he saw Ella, and told her that he had been dreaming of her since the glimpse so long ago. Ella said that she had "been dreaming of the boy who sailed past my garden on the day of my 16th birthday." The had much to discuss, and wanted to avoid the unpleasant stepfamily, so they "hurried to the gondola and set off for the palace, where they were married the very next day."
From Cinderella, by Delamare, D. (1993) New York: Green Tiger Press
Notes: The illustrations are just spectacular, reminiscent of Grahame Williams' Animalia, as well as Roy Gerrard (Rosie and the Rustlers, etc.) Them is "a fantastic Venetian setting" according to jacket notes, and this book does not dissapoint. 

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