Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peanut and the Princess

She didn't even know her name for the longest time, but the draw of that princess in the blue dress was really overpowering. It all began with the idea that princesses show their shoulders - I saw her looking in the mirror with her shirt sleeves pulled down her arms to create a princess dress, and knew that they had a hold on her. I think she had seen the Disney princesses on the stickers she got from the doctors office, and maybe at one friends house, so how it got so significant so fast is really beyond me.

She got fixated on a spinning, music playing Cinderella doll she saw at Lowe's last year, and we had to stop to see her every single time we were in the store. (You may recall that we were remodeling, so we were at Lowe's quite a lot). We caved and bought the doll for Christmas, and she drooled over it so much that I was more than a little concerned.

For a while, I tried to avoid the whole thing completely - the "no princess zone". Then I started making up princesses - Princess Strong and other equally random girl power figures. Then I gave in a bit, and looked for princesses and other heroines we could read about. I began to realize that the dress was the real draw - she loves the beautiful dresses - and that the rest of it, the damsel in distress, the beauty being the only reason the princess gets "saved", doesn't even really cross her mind. So we read about Pocahontas, Betsy Ross, and even Princess Diana. And Peanut wore lots of fancy dresses.

But Cinderella was the big one. She was just drawn to her and the blue dress Disney version she saw all over the place. One day, it occurred to me that Disney didn't make up the old folk tale, they just made their version more available to little girls. So we opened up the box, and dove into the folk tale. Turns out, it is thought that the Cinderella story originated in China, and there are hundreds of versions from many cultures. The main idea of the story is always the same, but the elements of magic and the forms the characters take, as well as the moral, differ based on the culture. You can read more here and here about the origins and history of Cinderella.

In addition to sewing a "dark blue Singarella dress" for Halloween, we took a Cinderella seeking trip to the library last week. We chose eight books (out of many many more) including the Carribean, Korean, Hmong, and French versions of the fairly tale. I've been just fascinated by this whole thing. One book is set in the Spice Islands and has the fairy godmother played by a crocodile. The Korean Cinderella is named "pear Blossom" and she has magical animals who complete her chores and provide her with food and clothing. Sometimes the stepsister (or sisters) die, sometimes they all forgive each other, sometimes they run away. I love the variety of literature and culture it allows us to see - even the illustrations are interesting to look at and talk about with Peanut. I'm sure we will revisit this tale as she gets older and can understand and learn more from it, and I can honestly say that I am excited to do that.

1 comment:'s good for you. said...

I've disappointed that there's no ghetto Cinderella. I suddenly have an idea of what to write and publish...hmmm...