To continue with the fairy tale theme of this week, for Fiction Friday I have a very short story I wrote, retelling Cinderella, with some pointed observations thrown in. This actually started out in Spanish, as a class assignment, and then I rewrote it (and expanded it) in English. I wrote this about four years ago, but a lot of the ideas eventually made their way into Book Two of The People the Fairies Forget, “Cinderella’s Substitute.”
Once upon a time in a far off kingdom there lived a maiden who was very beautiful and very kind. Fairy tales always begin the same way, and the maidens are always very beautiful and very kind. Often their name is Ella, as was the case for the maiden we’re talking about. This particular maiden, as do most of them, had long blond hair, very fair skin and eyes of the deepest blue. She didn’t have any initiative, spirit or goals for her life.
Ella’s mother died when she was very young. Her father lived long enough to make one grievous but common error by remarrying, then he died as well, leaving Ella with her stepmother and two stepsisters. The stepmother was wicked and cruel and ugly, and so were her daughters. Stepmothers in fairy tales are invariably wicked and cruel, and usually ugly too. Altogether, it’s hard to figure out what these men keep seeing in them. The stepmother and stepsisters were also lazy, so they made Ella do all the cooking and cleaning. Ella was often streaked with soot from the cinders of the fireplace. They weren’t very clever either, so the best name they could think of to call her was “Cinderella.” Sootella didn’t sound as good.
Meanwhile, at the castle there lived a prince. He was tall, dark and handsome. He didn’t have a name. The princes in fairy tales are always tall, dark and handsome, and only rarely do they have names. The Prince was rich and attractive and a great catch, but he didn’t have a bride.
One day the King—who also didn’t have a name; it ran in the family—decided that his son needed a wife. You’d think this would be the Prince’s problem, not the King’s, but this detail doesn’t seem to matter much. The King decided to throw a ball, and invite every eligible young woman in the country. It was a very large ball. Why exactly the King wanted his son to marry some random girl from his own kingdom, rather than a strategic political alliance, we can’t say.
Invitations were sent out at no little cost in postage stamps, and all the young women were excited to attend. Naturally the ugly stepsisters wanted very much to go, and naturally they forbade Ella from attending, just to live up to their reputation as wicked stepsisters. This was unfortunate, because attending the ball was the single, one and only dream Ella ever thought about having. Getting an education or maybe a job and achieving a better life away from her stepfamily—one with more fulfillment and fewer cinders—didn’t occur to her.
On the night of the ball Ella’s stepmother and stepsisters dressed up in beautiful gowns. It didn’t help, as the stepsisters were still ugly. Nevertheless, they still hoped to marry the prince (after all, it didn’t matter for their mother), and it can only be assumed that the stepmother was going along in a chaperoning capacity, since she certainly wasn’t an eligible young maiden. The three women drove away to the palace in their elegant carriage. Ella stayed at home and cried.
Suddenly, Ella’s fairy godmother appeared. She was obviously a fairy godmother, because she was a grandmotherly woman with wings. No one is quite sure why Ella had a fairy godmother. Most people don’t, you know, but the beautiful young maidens in fairy tales somehow always do. There’s also the question of where this woman has been all of Ella’s life, considering she’s had bigger problems up to now than going to a ball.
Upon finally arriving, the fairy godmother went right to work, turning a pumpkin into a carriage and mice into horses. The mice didn’t have much say in the matter. Next the fairy godmother made Ella a more beautiful dress than the stepsisters’ dresses, and styled her hair. She also made her glass slippers, though glass seems a very strange material to make dancing shoes out of. They looked nice though. The fairy godmother warned Ella that at midnight everything magical would disappear, reasons unexplained, and then sent her off to the ball.
When Ella arrived at the ball, the Prince saw her from across the room. Immediately he asked her to dance, because she was so beautiful. Her personality apparently was irrelevant. The Prince was rich and handsome, but he wasn’t very intelligent or polite because he didn’t ask Ella her name. They danced all night without exchanging names or pertinent biographical information, and fell deeply in love. They didn’t know anything about each other, of course, but what bearing does that have on the issue?
Ella was having such a wonderful time that she forgot she had to leave at midnight. When the clock began to strike twelve, Ella had to hurriedly run away without an explanation or forwarding address. In her haste, one of the perfectly fitting glass slippers fell off. The Prince naturally ran after her. He was rich and handsome but not very physically fit because he was unable to catch her, even though she was running in one high-heeled glass slipper, and he had both shoes on. The best he could do was pick up the glass slipper she’d left behind.
In the morning, the Prince announced that he would marry the girl whom the glass slipper fit. Though he was in love with Ella, he didn’t think he would be capable of recognizing her, and thus needed the shoe test. The prime minister took the glass slipper and went from house to house, trying the shoe on every girl. He wasn’t at all occupied with his day job. And apparently Ella must have had very strange feet, because the shoe didn’t fit on any other girl.
Finally the prime minister came to the house where Ella and her stepfamily lived. First the prime minister tried the shoe on each of the two stepsisters, even though they didn’t look remotely like the girl the Prince had been dancing with. The glass slipper didn’t fit them. The stepfamily, who weren’t completely oblivious this whole time, tried to prevent Ella from trying on the slipper next. They failed. The evil stepfamily always fails.
Ella tried on the glass slipper and it fit perfectly. The prime minister whisked her away to the palace where she was reunited with her prince, who hopefully had the good sense this time to ask her name. The two were married in a beautiful ceremony involving a lot of doves. They rode away in their carriage, and lived happily ever after. They always do, in fairy tales.