A Classical Fairy Tale Cinderella
Cinderella is a classical fairy tale that depicts the life of an unfortunate woman, who endures the oppression from his step-sisters and ends up being triumphant at the end of the story. This story continues to influence different cultures from around the globe. It is not surprising that Cinderella has thousands of variants that are known throughout the world. Each culture has a different version of the story; this is because the term Cinderella has become an analogy which means any person whose traits have been ignored. The theme of this story can be traced back to a Greek historian named Strabo through his tale of a Greco Egyptian girl called Rhodopis (Abramovich 17). This compelling tale caught the attention of people from different cultures who retold it from their perspective.
Cinderella in Different Cultures
At around 860 E.C, a Chinese scholar named Tuan Cheng-Shih developed the Chinese Cinderella story in his book “Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang,” this scholar claims that he heard this gripping story from his servant Li Shiyuan. With the name Ye Xian, the scholar introduces the Cinderella character who is being mistreated by her pettish step-sisters and step-mother. Ye Xian is a charming and hardworking girl who befriends a magic fish. This fish is depicted as the reincarnation of her dead mother. Knowing of her attachment to fish, the step-sisters and step-mother eat the fish just to irritate the poor girl. Ye Xian keeps the fish’s bones, and these bones fulfill her desires of attending a festival, donned with elegant clothes and golden slippers.
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According to Chinese culture, the woman’s feet are considered to be the most beautiful part of her body. Chinese men value women with small feet were highly valued by men. Chinese women would endure so much pain when binding their feet to satisfy their men, in the Chinese tale, the little feet have been symbolized by the golden slippers which were worn by the beautiful Ye Xian. Cinderella’s feet are small since no other feet could fit into the lost and found shoes; this must have been the reason behind the king’s interest in Ye Xian. This king falls in love with Ye Xian because of the size of her slippers, which are small in size (Abramovich 26).
The Italian version of this story is derived from Giambattista Basile’s short stories book entitled Pentamerone. In one of the stories entitled “The Hearth Cat,” the tale of a young peasant girl called Zezolla is told. This poor girl is also mistreated by her stepmother, just like other characters depicting Cinderella. This Cinderella tale is remarkably different from the others; the character in this tale has blood on her hands because she kills her stepmother. The death of his wife compelled Zezolla’s father to marry a more vicious woman with six daughters, who are equally harsh. In this version of Cinderella, the calf and the fish of the previous versions have been replaced by a date tree that has magical powers. The ultimate person who marries Zezolla is a full-fledged king and not a prince or a merchant. Just like Italian women, Zezolla is left at home to work; however, her role as a woman is exploited for the sake of her family. An Italian woman who was ready for marriage was expected to carry herself around with honor and respect. Zezolla did this through the magic tree which enabled her to look terrific when she attended the King's ball. However, she brings out a murky characteristic that is alien to Italian women (killing).
The European's interpretation of Cinderella’s story was facilitated by the Grimm brothers. From their tale, Cinderella is introduced as a young girl who is by her sick mother's deathbed. Although the sick mother was sure that she would die, she promises to take proper care of the young child. After her mother’s death, the young girl plants a tree next to her mother’s grave; she frequents her mother’s grave each day. Because of the difficulty, she has to endure from her stepmother, Cinderella cries over her mother’s grave, the tears fall onto the tree which grows and becomes big. A bird would perch itself on the tree’s branches whenever Cinderella visited her mother’s gravesite. This bird gave Cinderella anything she wished for, the bird gave Cinderella a gold and silver gown with slippers embroidered with silver and silk, which Cinderella needed for the king’s festival. Because of their outrageous attitude towards Cinderella, the eyes of Cinderella’s stepmother and step-sisters were gouged out by pigeons.
Charles Perrault, who is a French writer, has been acclaimed as the gatherer of the folklore of all time; he is the brains behind the tale Cinderella as seen by modern-day readers. In his works “Histoires ou Du Temps Passe,” Perrault writes the tale of Cinderella. He adds his ideas to this gripping tale narrated to him while he was still a child. He introduces the reader to the family of a man who has recently married another wife after the death of his first wife. From the previous relationship, the gentlemen had sired a daughter named Cinderella. The newly married wife starts to mistreat the little Cinderella immediately after she settles in her new home (Perrault 18). The young girl bears all the abuse she receives without uttering a word to her father. One day the prince of that kingdom invited all young ladies to a ball where he would choose a wife for himself.
The French culture is extraordinarily diverse when it comes to love and marriage. French men admire women who are elegant and furnished just like the prodigy Cinderella, depicted in Perrault’s story collection “Histoires ou Du Temps Passe.” On the other hand, French women are avant-garde meaning they love style (Abramovich 123). Walking in the streets of Paris or any other town for that matter, one would not fail to notice that French women are remarkably fashionable. The glass shoe highlighted in Perrault’s tale symbolizes a contemporary French woman who can do anything just to attract the attention of a man. Perrault does not fail in his quest of showcasing the importance of style and fashion in French culture.
The variants of the Cinderella story discussed above have some similarities; first off, they all represent Cinderella as a lowly member of the family. All the chores and duties of the house are performed by her; she is also mistreated by her family members. Her family members do everything in their power to ensure that she does not attend the balls and parties. She is also dressed in tatters and rugs which symbolizes her lowly position in the family. In all the variants, Cinderella is a blood relative of her father. However, other characters who are introduced to the narrative are brought up by her father who marries a different wife. These women end up being Cinderella’s stepmothers. Cinderella’s wishes are fulfilled through magical means; all the variants have a fairy being that helps Cinderella have the desires of her heart. The magical beings come in form of a godmother, a calf, a tree, and a fish.
The rightful position of this mistreated girl transpires at the end of each tale, Cinderella ends up being married to princes, kings, and wealthy merchants. Her future life changes for the better because her husband can provide anything that she might want.
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