Fairy Tales Facing Off on a Friday
(Inspired by a meme at This Miss Loves to Read)
or simply find interesting or haunting,
and review it or simply say why you like it so much,
or why it has captured your attention.
There are at least three other blogs for whom Friday means (or has meant) fairytales rather than followers, but this is the first one with a meme that sings to me. So it's the first one I'm doing!
And because I'm kind of in smackdown mode at the moment, this post can't help the form it is taking . . .
I'll be doing my own systematic deliberation here, but as always, you get to have your say in the combox when I'm done. Okay? =)
Cinderella: Like Frances Hodgson Burnett's Sara Crewe (A Little Princess), this character has two easily recognisible "looks": she is either a little drudge wearing rags and sitting by the cinders or a lovely woman fleeing a ball in such haste that she loses a shoe. Her "props" include that glass shoe, a pumpkin (or a pumpkin-shaped coach), and a clock about to strike midnight.
Donkey Skin: The name says it all, doesn't it? She is a young woman wearing a donkey's hide (sometimes with the head still on) like a cloak. She also has a ring that plays a very important part in her story, but it's not a remarkable ring made of glass or vegetables or anything.
The Verdict: Although the collected images of Cinderella paint a more complete picture of her character because they show more than one side of her, I love the simplicity of the only depiction of Donkey Skin that works. I'd even say the lack of "props" is a plus--but this is where (I think) most of you will disagree with me.
This round goes to . . . Donkey Skin.
Cinderella: A young woman is forced to be a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters, but gets to go to a royal ball one night, thanks to her fairy godmother, who gives only the condition that she be home before midnight. At the ball, she meets and falls in love with the prince but still runs away as the clock is striking twelve. In her haste, she loses a shoe. Determined to find her again, the prince goes from house to house looking for the woman whose foot will fit in the shoe.
Donkey Skin: A princess tries to put off an incestuous marriage by making what she hopes are impossible demands, but when her father sacrifices even his magical donkey so she can wear its skin, she knows she has no choice but to run away to another kingdom. There, she finds menial work to do and never takes off the donkey skin, except on feast days (because she's a good Catholic girl, you know). On one of those days, the prince of the realm passes by, gets a peek at her through the keyhole (Don't ask; I know it sounds pervy), falls in love instantly, and asks others who she might be--which confuses them because they only know about the grimy, unattractive girl called "Donkey Skin". Then he falls sick and says that nothing will cure him but a cake baked by this "Donkey Skin"; and of course our princess is happy to oblige. While she is baking the cake, a ring falls off her finger; while he is eating the cake, he finds the ring. Getting better instantly, he resolves to marry the woman whom the ring will fit and when he tries it on the princess, she casts off the donkey skin and appears before him in all her well bred beauty.
The Verdict: Donkey Skin might be the more interesting story now because it isn't as worn and familiar as Cinderella, but it is clear which one has the better plot. Seriously, Donkey Skin's prince just happens to be looking in the keyhole on a rare day when the princess isn't wearing the donkey skin? And then he falls mysteriously ill? And then he gets even more mysteriously better? Randomness like that may be typical of real life, but stories should make sense.
This round goes to . . . Cinderella!
Cinderella: We know that she is patient and hardworking despite the unjust hand that was dealt to her; and nobody in the story deserves a night out in a new dress more than she does. She also seems to understand the Chestertonian principle that gifts should not be rationalised and meets her fairy godmother's abitrary curfew without a murmur. And she seems to dance very gracefully. Quite a saint, really, with natural talents to boot!
Donkey Skin: She leaves a world of luxury in a palace to live as a servant in a cottage, because there is no way to remain at home without sinning. She seems willing to draw out the sacrifice for the rest of her life. And she observes feast days! And bakes well. =P A different sort of saint with another sort of talent.
The Verdict: We have two good girls here, but I prefer the one whose sacrifice is symbolised by something very much like a hair shirt. Because, you know, it's just more Catholic. And admit it: dealing with an evil stepmother is nothing next to dealing with one's own lecherous father. So now we know who really gets to be "Final Girl"!
This round goes to . . . Donkey Skin!
Cinderella: A glass shoe! Which might have actually been made of fur, not glass. There's some legend about a slip of the pen: verre (glass) instead of vair (squirrel fur). But it's the principle, not the material that counts--as we can tell from the many retellings that replace the shoe with another object altogether.
Donkey Skin: A ring! I'd love to go with the donkey skin itself, which is both a symbolic hair shirt and a virtual "invisibility cloak" that hides her radiant beauty even from those who see her every day . . . but we all know it's the ring.
The Verdict: The shoe and the ring pretty much serve the same purpose. Only one woman's foot can slide into the shoe and only one woman's finger can slide into the ring. And that is how each prince knows which woman he should marry. Perhaps these personal objects symbolise inner beauty, which people often fail to see when they cannot look past someone's appearance. So far, everything is equal, aye? So it is time to point out that when the stories are also about love, sexy shoes have nothing on romantic rings.
This round goes to . . . Donkey Skin!
And now I'm really surprised! I personally prefer Donkey Skin (for the usual Catholic reasons that make me so tiresome), but Cinderella is the story the world knows better, loves better, bases idioms on, and creates more spin-offs and adaptations of than even Jane Austen novels. When I started this post, I believed it would end if not in a clear win for Cinderella, then in a draw.
Wow. =| I must be more inflexibly biased than I thought! (Bwahahahahahaha!) And that's probably why, in another face-off from earlier this week, "Weird Al" Yankovic's Amish Paradise, a universal favourite that I myself have never been able to "get," didn't really stand a chance. =P
(You're never coming back to read my biased blog again, are you?)
Image Sources: a) Cinderella, b) Donkey Skin