Cinderella is Not a Damsel in Distress and I’ve Got 5 Books to Prove It.

imageDisney released a trailer last week for their new live action Cinderella movie more or less based on their animated version. Yes, it looks beautiful. But plot wise, is it anything new? It honestly looks part like Disney’s animated film and part Ever After. The only thing about this movie that looked exciting to me is Helena Bonham Carter as Cindy’s Fairy God Mother. Who wouldn’t want that?!?!

Cinderella has proven to me time and again to be a really tough cookie in books, and I have no idea why this hasn’t translated to screen yet. Think about it: she lost both her parents and had to care for three selfish women for years. Not only would this give her crazy physical strength, it would also give her the toughest skin and patience to deal with anything. There are five books that I love way more than any film version of Cinderella (or t.v. OUAT, you did depressing things with your untapped well of Cinderella plot) I’ve seen.

Mirror Mirror: Forty Folk Tales for Mothers and Daughters to Share by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

imageThis is not a retelling. Jane Yolen and her daughter collected various retellings of stories and then at the end of each chapter give a commentary dialogue. What’s great about this is that three “original” versions of Cinderella from various cultures can be found within this anthology. The commentary also gives some of their research resources, and more analysis on the Cinderella fable. The commentary dialogue between the mother and daughter is actually really intelligent and enlightening too.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

imageIf you missed this in your childhood, go back and read it. Don’t watch the movie, it doesn’t come close to comparing. This was such an original, refreshing retelling, and it has held up over time. It came out in 1997 and is STILL a bestseller. Basically, if you’ve never heard of Ella Enchanted, this Cinderella is cursed with the gift of obedience, and she must go on a quest to try and find the fairy to reverse it. I have warm childhood memories of this book and intend to gift it to my niece in two or three years.

Ash by Malinda Lo

imageThe cover is what originally drew me to this book. And then I couldn’t put it down. This story is amazing all around. Good writing, good storytelling, good twist. I love books that just happen to have a gay/lesbian protagonist when it’s not the center of the story. Granted, although Cinderella is a romance, it’s also about a tough girl breaking out of a bad situation. And that’s what Ash is.

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love and Cinderella: Fables are Forever by Chris Roberson

imageThe two Cinderella miniseries in the Fables universe are exceptional. ”I’ve never read Fables though!” you say. Well don’t worry about it! Cindy explains everything you need to know. And they’re very spoiler free if you decide you want to start the series after reading the Cinderella’s. This is not actually a retelling. It’s more of a “what happened after happily ever after?” mixed in with some James Bond stuff. Basically, Cinderella is a secret agent for Fabletown and these are two of her missions. They’re especially great because of all the other characters she meets along the way (plus the characters she fights) and the stellar writing and drawing.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

imageCinder is the first in a series of retold fairy tales that take place in a futuristic sci-fi world. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who lives in a future Asian society where a cure-less disease has been spreading. While I found the plot to be a little predictable, the writing and the characters are worth continuing with the story. Meyer’s other books in the series have each been stronger than the last, just as Cinder gets stronger in the story. I love these books because they tie into the original tales really well. Plus, Marissa Meyer is one of us. She used to write Sailor Moon Fan Fiction!

I hope that after reading this, you go pick up one of these books, or one of the countless other retellings where Cinderella actually has a spine and doesn’t run crying to her talking mice friends at the first sign of trouble. Disney has so immersed our culture in the idea of a helpless Cinderella, that sometimes I forget I like this character. And I do genuinely like her.

I leave you with this fun fact: in the original French Cinderella, the slippers were fur and the translator who did the original English version changed it to glass.  Imagine how differently we’d look at Cinderella if that slip hadn’t been made!


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