My in-laws bought my daughter a Chinese book a while ago that had the story of Cinderella in it. Although she couldn't say the name for a while (she just said, "'Bella"), she really enjoyed listening to it.

Finally, I went and got the movie for her, and we watched it over the weekend. It surprised me greatly, but I didn't recognize any of it (other than the story itself, of course).

A number of things struck me about it. One, and I'm sure I must have heard this before, somewhere: it's downright anti-feminist. "Just be nice, and wish for the best, and a Prince will sweep you off your feet, and carry you to happiness." Not really a nice message, other than the 'being nice' part. Nothing about doing something to actively improve your lot in life. "Just sit back, and someone will wave a magic wand, and your life will become grand". That's just total bollucks. It might not be impossible, but the likelihood is so small that it's downright stupid to live your life that way.

Two, there's no actual character growth in the story. Cinderella ends the same way she started, just in different circumstances.

Three, the stepmother was downright evil, and stupid, at that. She didn't even do a good job pushing for her daughters' advancement. When she figured out who Cinderella was, she really should have been nice to her. Even if Cinderella was going to snag the top prize, being around the royal court (which could happen if Cinderella forgave her past indignities, and which wouldn't happen with the way the actual movie turned out) would put her daughters in the way of other nobles.

I was looking for the original story just before writing this, and had thought it came from the Brothers Grimm's collection. But it wasn't there (other than a reference to the character in Mother Holle), so I followed up on the credit in the movie to Charles Perrault.

I was curious because I'd heard that the original was much bloodier (a friend, many years ago, described one of the stepsisters cutting off her heel to try to fit into the slipper, but being given away by the blood), and a little more involuted (the prince spreading pitch on the stairs to keep her from getting away; I think I got this idea from Sondheim's Into the Woods). Also, it seemed likely that the Chinese book was based on the Disney story, rather than the original. Certainly so, if those items I mentioned were there.

In any event, the original wasn't bloody, and the Chinese book probably was based on Disney, rather than Perrault. But the differences between the 17th and 20th centuries are certainly interesting. The father remaining alive, for instance. The stepmother being pretty much a non-character. The creation of relationship with the animals. The compression of the meeting of Cinderella and the Prince into one evening. The lack of re-appearance of the fairy godmother. The stepsisters not being quite as willfully cruel, but merely uncaring. And, as made a lot of sense to me when I mentioned the stepmother's stupidity, Cinderella's charity toward those stepsisters at the end.

I'm kind of curious about how it was reviewed when it first came out. I should dig up the New Yorker, and see what it says (and man, I shouldn't have bought that new, should I?).

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