Walt Disney’s Cinderella

10May10

By Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Mary Blair

This telling of the Cinderella story is the same one many readers familiar to those who have seen the Disney movie version of the tale. The illustrator, Mary Blair, also worked on the movie as the conceptual designer, creating a familiar visual appeal.

Rylant beautifully crafts her words to tell the Western culture’s version of the Cinderella story. Rylant’s poetic writing style tells the story in a powerful way . All Cinderella has to her name is her desperate wish for love: “She did her duty, she kept her silence. But underneath it all, she was waiting. She had not given up on Love, and she was waiting for it to somehow, somewhere, find her.”  Cinderella is a stark contrast to her evil stepsisters, who only wait and wish for riches.

The king invites everyone in the kingdom to a grand ball at the palace as part of the effort to find his son and future king a bride. Naturally, Cinderella’s cold-hearted stepmother and stepsisters view this as their chance at riches. However, like our own Cinderella, the Prince longs for true love and wasn’t just looking for any wife – “The prince had no wife because he had not yet fallen in love…of all the girls he had ever known or seen, not one touched his heart. Not one moved him.”

Cinderella has a stirring deep inside her urging her to go to the ball – “Her heart said that Love was waiting there.” She knew her ragged appearance and status as a servant prevented her from doing so, and so Cinderella went outside and wept. But on this magical night, Cinderella’s “tears created a miracle.” Appearing out of nowhere, a fairy godmother offers Cinderella comfort and assistance.  Transforming a pumping into a coach, mice into horses, and a “child of rags” into a “vision”, fairy godmothers work was  done, and Cinderella was ready for the ball. The one condition – she must return home at the stroke of midnight before the magic vanishes away.

(Aside: I have always wondered by the fairy godmother only allows Cinderella until midnight, but alas, my knowledge of the inter-workings of time sensitive, magical interventions is rather limited…)

M y favorite quote in the story is on the page facing the illustration of Cinderella’s entrance into the grand palace, looking so small and elegant with the Prince still not in sight. Rylant asks, “Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world?” When you think about how people end up together and make that decision, it does seem rather magical. A few pages later, the answer to this question is revealed: “In silence,  Love found them.” In this story, Love is an integral character, hence Rylant’s decision to capitalize it and actively describe it. I think this is conveying that Love comes into your heart at a time and a place when you’re ready for it, and perhaps least expecting it. Love that is manufactured or forced may be the façade of love. Maybe it is the case that true love must find you.

As the Prince and Cinderella fall in Love on the dance floor the evening flies by and Cinderella must flee when the clock strikes twelve. In her haste, one of her slippers falls off and is left to be found by her Prince. A Duke is sent out to search high and low to find the girl to whom the slipper belongs, and after much searching finds Cinderella at long last and reunites her with her Prince Charming.

The Disney movie Cinderella is one of my favorites – I even own it on DVD today. However, after reading this story, I find myself even more enchanted by this book version. Rylant’s poetic wording is more touching than the way love unfolds in the movie. The lack of the musical interludes also adds a more serious and sophisticated tone to the way the story unfolds. I wonder if as a child I would have enjoyed this book as much as I can now as an adult, or if it is as  an adult who was very fond of the movie that I appreciate the grace and sophistication of this text.

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