Breaking the Glass Slipper
I often poke fun at Cinderella, rewriting the fairytale in different ways but always denying it a romantic ending. I have a romantic heart and I love fairytales, and like stories to have happy endings, but the story of Cinderella makes less sense the more you think about it.
There are, in fact, two different stories. The first is of a girl who has lost her parents and is treated as a servant by her stepmother and stepsisters, but despite her loss and her ill treatment she has the strength of character to remain good-hearted. For her kindness, she is given gifts of magic and goes to the grand ball where she is the envy of all and dances with the prince. But this is just a momentary magic, and life swiftly returns to normal.
The second story is a grand romance. A rich, handsome, powerful man, who has yet to find any woman that he feels real passion for, meets Cinderella and falls instantly in love. Presumably because he looks into her eyes and just knows that she is the one he is destined to marry and that they will be perfect together. Not only is it love at first sight, but she is his ‘one true love’, and when she escapes he hunts her down to claim her as his bride.
This second story is pervasive in Western culture, and gives us, for example, Pretty Woman and Fifty Shades of Grey, along with a million other fairytale romances.
Fairytales often have magical rewards of wealth, power and love, but in Cinderella the magic explicitly ends at midnight. Except it doesn’t. Joining the two stories is an entirely unnecessary glass slipper that defies the midnight boundary. Does it signify that the Prince’s continuing obsession with Cinderella is part of the enchantment? Not ‘true love’ after all but a love spell as fragile and dangerous as a glass slipper?
More likely it is saying that ‘true love’ is more powerful than magic – which does seem to be a running theme in modern fairytales. Because ‘true love’ is itself the modern fairytale.
We may not believe in magic and monsters, but falling in love is full of the same thrill and terror. Being in love is the ultimate drug; it excites the senses and makes the world a brighter and better place. But it also makes you vulnerable, because the object of your love becomes the centre of your universe. They have the power to make you blissfully whole, or to rip out your heart and leave you bleeding at the side of the road.
It is the pursuit of the blissful whole – of ‘true love’ – that stirs the romantic heart, and the thought of failure that terrifies it. The story of a man scouring the land for the woman he loves, and then living happily ever after with her, is an affirmation of ‘true love conquering all’. No matter that the story is absurd; the romantic heart craves that affirmation.
But there’s no reason why Cinderella has to be a love story. For her to be rescued from a life of misery is surely sufficient cause for happiness, and why force a loving bride on a prince who has been trying hard to avoid one for years? Take away the corruption of ‘true love’ and even the mystery of the glass slipper makes sense…
Ella and the Prince – A 100-word fairytale
For the first time since that fateful night, Ella and the Prince stood face to face with no one to overhear or interrupt. He looked away, his cheeks red as if baked by the hot fury in her eyes. “I distinctly remember leaving with both my shoes,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “My father insists I marry, and you… I asked my fairy godmother to find me a woman who could be both friend and lover, yet not sicken me with romantic affection. She gave me the glass slipper.”
The tension eased from Ella. “Maybe there’s hope for us.”
Check out Frances’ new book ‘I Like It Hard’ below.
It’s no Cinderella story, but my new novelette has an aromantic protagonist:
After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.
But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.
Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.
Francis Franklin lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with his beautiful wife and daughter. By day he is a university lecturer, but in between work and family he finds time to read, write and blog. He is interested in unusual human nature, such as non-binary gender and sexuality, or the interplay of dark and light in the transformation of human to vampire.
While working on his PhD, he spent three years writing an epic fantasy novel (Kings of Infinite Space) that combined his love of sci-fi and fantasy, his fascination with vampires, and his obsession with the myth of Iphigenia. This novel lay gathering dust on a shelf for eleven years but is now available as an eBook.
Since then, he has rediscovered his love of writing and has written a darkly erotic contemporary vampire novel (Suzie and the Monsters) and a lot of short stories and poetry in a similar vein – much of which can be found on his blog.
Blog: Francis James Franklin: Author, Poet & Wishful Thinker
Facebook: Francis James Franklin (Alina Meridon)