Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding, Cinderella and Happy Endings

It seems that everyone loves a true-to-life Cinderella story. William and Catherine will be married on April 29th in England with many millions eyes from around the world watching this historic wedding. It seems that it was only yesterday, the world watched Lady Diana's Cinderella story on television. Times have changed but Royal weddings still catch the attention and imagination of millions around the world.

The Royal Wedding excitement is making it's way into classrooms and libraries. As a current event issue, students are discussing the Royal wedding with their teachers and friends. Some of the teens that frequently come into the library where I work will be doing extra credit assignments by watching the wedding live and "reporting" what they witnessed. Libraries also have caught the William and Kate fever. In Muskegon, Michigan which is not too far from where I am writing this blog, Friends of the Hackley Library will host a Royal Wedding Breakfast fundraiser at the Muskegon Athletic Club. The proceeds to be donated to the library’s children’s department which is in need of repair. With all the chatter about the royal wedding, it seemed appropriate to look at other culture's version of Cinderella. There are several children's authors who retell the story very well.

Shirley Climo has written several Cinderella stories from other cultures. One of her best works is The Korean Cinderella (1993) Pear is beautiful and is the daughter of an elderly couple. The father remarries when Pear's mother dies, her father remarries a woman with a daughter the same age as Pear. Just like the American version, the stepmother is jealous of her stepdaughter's beauty and requires her to perform many impossible chores, while her own daughter, Peony watches. Pear completes a set a chores with the aid of magical creatures such as a frog, sparrow, and black oxen. This allow Pear to go to the festival, where she loses one of her shoes and catches the eye of the Magistrate. What happens next? Well of course the Magistrate returns the shoe and falls in love with Pear. In The Egyptian Cinderella (1992) Climo again spins a wonderful tale that resonates closely to the traditional Cinderella story that most children know. This is Rhodopis's Cinderella story. She is a Greek slave girl in ancient Egypt, who has a rosy complexion and fair hair. As one might expect this is a rarity in Egypt and Rhodopia is often teased by the Egyptian servant girls. Rhodopia's fate changes when a great falcon deposits one of Rhodopis' rosy-gold slippers in the lap of the Pharaoh. He decides that this is a signal from the gods to marry the maiden whose foot it fits. Climo introduces young readers to Prusia and the Arabian Nights story in The Persian Cinderella (1999) In this story, kind-hearted Settareh gives money to a beggar and foolishly spends the rest of her money on a cracked jug instead of purchasing fabric for a new dress to wear to the prince's celebrations. To her great surprise the jug is inhabited by a pari that is able to grant her every wish. Now she is able to attend the festival and catches the attention of the prince. Settareh leaves behind a diamond ankle bracelet which is found by the queen. In an unwise move on Settareh part, she tells her stepsisters that the jug contains a pari. What else would jealous stepsisters do but steal it and instruct it to get rid of the the sweet Settereh. Their wish is granted and the jug leaves six jeweled hairpins that are placed in Settareh's hair, which then turns her into a turtledove. The prince befriends the bird and removes the hairpins, revealing that the bird is Settareh.

Several versions of the Cinderella story can be found in Native American folklore. A fine example of one of these version is Penny Pollock's The turkey girl (1996). This version focuses more on keeping one's promise than on finding one's true soul mate.
A poor orphan girl's kindness is repaid when a tribe's turkeys dress her in a fine doeskin robe so she will be able to attend the Dance of the Sacred Bird. There is one catch. She must promise to return to the turkeys before dawn. She is so enthralled with the dancing that she breaks her promise and loses her friends forever. From the Algonquin folklore, Rafe Martin presents The Rough-face Girl (1998) This story begins with two domineering sisters who are determined to marry the Invisible Being, who is everything a girl could want. Rich, powerful and supposedly handsome. They must prove that they can see him. They failed, but their mistreated younger sister. Rough-Face Girl, can see his sweet and awesome face all around her. He then reveals himself, and the Rough-face girl's true beauty is shown and the two marry.

Robert D. San Souci's work on the Cinderella stories takes his readers to the Caribbean. . Cendrillon (1998) is told from the godmother's point of view, this story is about a poor washerwoman whose mother leaves a magic wand behind. The godmother figures out how to use the wand and is able to help her beloved goddaughter. With one wave, A fruit a pain is transformed into the coach; six agoutis become the horses; and the slippers are bright pink with roses embroidered on them. San Souci's next effort Little gold star: A Spanish American Cinderella tale. (2000) is about Teresa who lives peacefully with her father, Tom in the hills of New Mexico, until he remarries. When Tom returns On a rare visit home, he gives his daughter a lamb. Killing the beloved animal, stepmother sends the brokenhearted girl to wash its fleece in the river. When the fleece is snatched by a fish, a beautiful woman wearing blue appears and promises to get it back if she will tend to the old man and the baby in a hut on the hill. Teresa agrees readily to do this but is unaware that the woman is the Virgin Mary and the old man and the baby is Joseph and Jesus. Teresa's reward is a gold star, planted on her forehead. When she returns home, the stepmother is again enraged, and sends her daughters to do the same as Teresa. However, their results are the opposite of Teresa's. After this episode, the story ends in the traditional way.

There are so many Cinderella-like stories around the world. These stories are a wonderful way to celebrate the "true life" princess story that will be televised around the world on April 29. Whether attending a fundraiser in Muskegon, watching the Royal wedding for pure enjoyment or missing the event all together, the Cinderella stories from around the world can provide the fairytale ending that everyone seeks. It will make for a great story time on the 29th or for the library's Summer Reading Program, One Story, One World.

For an extended bibliography of Cinderella Around the World please email,
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