Adaptations of “Cinderella” throughout time (1/24)

Class on Tuesday started out with a presentation on the classic Disney movie, “Cinderella”, in which the presenters compared the animated film to one of the versions of the story we read for class, “Donkeyskin”. The two versions share a few similarities—the death of the mother, the presence of a fairy godmother, misfortunes, and a “happily ever after”. However, it has more differences than similarities, especially when it comes to the parental figures. In the movie, both of Cinderella’s parents have died, and she is in the care of her wicked stepmother, and lives with her stepsisters; the story of “Donkeyskin” features Cinderella’s father as her guardian, who has an inappropriate infatuation with his own daughter. It’s interesting seeing how Disney was able to create a children’s movie out of a story that, traditionally, features so many misfortunes and erotic undertones into one of the most well-known and liked movies of all time.


We also talked about the idea of parody and pastiche in children’s literature, and how this relates to the story of the Three Little Pigs we read for Thursday’s class. We looked at how the classic bedtime story “Goodnight Moon” was transformed into “Goodnight Bush”, in which the authors adapted the original story with President George W. Bush. Obviously, this book is not meant for children. A lot of the jokes or innuendos the book makes are not appropriate for children, but rather for adults who have read “Goodnight Moon” themselves or to their children. From the brief part of the book we looked at, it is obviously a parody of Bush’s presidency, but also political satire. It’s interesting to see how some authors can take a children’s book and turn it into something so different from the original, about a very adult theme.


This version has an element of fun and does something comical to the original that a new audience can understand; Linda Hutchean is a proponent of this definition. However, Frederic Jameson thinks that parody can be further split up with pastiche, which is like parody but without the fun, comical aspect to what is being adapted. Whereas parody makes use of comedy, pastiche simply adapts something to bring certain issues to light. For example, we saw parody in Roald Dahl’s version of the Three Little Pigs, which has a drastically different ending to it than the traditional version. Traditionally, the wolf in the story destroys the first two houses, and depending on the version, will destroy the third house, or will instead learn a lesson about not destroying homes. That is the case in Dahl’s version, until we get to the third house; the pig in the stone house calls on Little Red Riding Hood to help save him and his home. She does just that, by whipping out a gun and shooting the wolf—but also shoots the pig in the process, to bring forth the idea that girls can defend themselves and be just as manitpulative as anyone else.


We started out our conversation about the different Cinderella tales from Tatar’s “The Classic Fairy Tales” talking about our opinions of the story. Many people said the more recent versions of the story, like the movie and later versions of the written stories, are mundane and too unrealistic; many people, like me, prefer the darker versions of Cinderella, like the Brothers Grimm version, and their versions of other fairy tales. We looked at how the story of Cinderella has evolved over time, from a story about a stepmother killing her stepdaughter’s fish out of spite, to Cinderella’s father wanting to marry his own young daughter, to the version we’re more familiar with—a girl uses the help of a magical source to go to a ball, despite her stepmother’s wishes, fall in love with a prince, have the prince chase after her after losing an accessory, the prince finding her after many futile attempts, and finally living “happily ever after”.


We really only got to talk about the first two Cinderella stories, “Yeh-hsien” and “Donkeyskin”, both very different variations of one story. With “Donkeyskin”, we talked about how the narrator constantly refers to the Cinderella character as a child, emphasizing the unethical relationship the father wants to have with his own daughter. This brought up the question of whether fairy tales like this were appropriate for children to read, and whether or not they should still be read and taught today. I personally think that they should still be taught and read nowadays, but ultimately, it is the parent of the child who has the final say in what their child reads. I think they can be used as a great teaching tool to show older children or young adults to explain the differences between our culture here and the different cultures around the world and from different time periods.


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