In response to a few readers forwarding cute illustrations linking fairytales to footwear, and a few others wondering if the IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes‘ cover art is intended to suggest a Cinderella parallel, I revisited the story of that femme fatale’s oppression and subsequent stroke of good luck, and couldn’t help but wonder how the saga is currently being perceived by the latest generation of readers.
Given today’s reality–that young impressionable female minds are constantly being told they have the power to control their own destiny … and that girls’ aspirations are, in most civilized societies, no longer affected by their chromosome make-up–I suspect that modern-day takes on this centuries-old saga are far more skeptical than those of previous generations. How could they not be, when it’s common knowledge that Prince Charmings are rare if not mythical, that glass shoes are in no way comfortable, and that mice should not be welcomed indoors even if they are amazing seamstresses.
For curiosity’s sake, I put myself in the shoes of Francie Lanoo (the quirky, modern-day, artsy lead character in IF NOT 4 U and Some Shoes) and considered whether or not the notion of Cinderella’s happy ending held any appeal. This led to Cinderella’s Wikipedia page, and the discovery that there are many versions of the story, each from a different country and era … including The Little Glass Slipper (England), Centerentola (Italy), La Petite Pantoufle de verre (French), and Rhodopis (early Greece) … and that the plots vary significantly. For example, in one, Cinderella visits the palace three nights in a row and plays hard to get on the first two … which was a strategic move because it no doubt gave her time to make sure the guy was ‘ligit”. In another, Cinderella scores the prince and, afterward, witnesses the doves that made her fancy dress picking the eyes out of her two stepsisters, leaving them blind and hideous (yikes, I can see why Disney steered clear of that one). In yet another, Cinderella is depicted as the child of her father’s first wife (so she’s a stepchild to him, too) and sees her father play an active role in humiliating her, no doubt leaving her with some serious long-term daddy issues.
Last but not least came the most entertaining version of the centuries-old story, a fractured fairytale entitled Chickerella, written by Mary Jane & Herman Auch. It opens under a familiar pretence–with Chickerella’s dad making a poor 2nd-marriage choice, disappearing without explanation, and leaving his daughter with a wicked stepmother and two stepclucker-siblings–but goes down a different road altogether when the prince meets Chickerella, expresses no interest whatsoever in marriage, and alternatively, becomes infatuated with her unique style and suggests they go into the fashion business together. A fun twist, right?
Loveable about this version are the multitude of fowl puns, the loud-and-clear message that pursuing one’s own dreams is the true key to happiness, and the ambiguous ending that allows the reader’s imagination to choose whatever happily-ever-after they so desire. Maybe the prince and Chickerella, after a few years of working side by side, do become crazy-mad lovebirds (pardon the pun) and blissfully wed in a grand ballroom. Or maybe the prince and Chickerella’s careers become the priority, but because they both want to be parents, they arrange to lay an egg together and go through life as non-married co-parents. Or maybe Chickerella recognizes that she’s the one with all of the talent, so she orchestrates a hostel takeover of the fashion company, and banishes the prince back to his mundane princely duties. In Francie Lanoo’s version, likely the grand finale would feature the happy couple doing the Chicken Dance under the stars on a warm tropical beach, wearing super-snazzy Chickerella-designed high-heeled web-toed shoes that suit them perfectly. And as icing on the cake, she would feature a woven hammock, strung between two trees, in a secluded spot nearby.
Which leads me to a query: if you were asked to write a story involving a poor persecuted heroine who–by twist of fate–receives the good fortune she deserves, what would its 2016 ultimate ending be?