“Who needs a fairy godmother? Cinderella isn’t the only one on her block with a wicked stepfamily, but Cinder Edna has better things to do than sit in the ashes feeling sorry for herself.” – Back cover
I am pleased to present this fractured version of the beloved Cinderella for today’s Book Talk Tuesday, hosted by Kelly Butcher at the Lemme Library. Next to The Three Little Pigs, I think that the story of Cinderella has tons of variations across the globe. There are so many of them that Cinderella can be a bimonthly theme in and of itself.
Cinderella, the Extended Version. As with other fractured fairy tales, Ellen Jackson’s Cinder Edna – illustrated by Kevin O’Malley – comes with a twist. While it retains the basic elements of the original Cinderella, Jackson’s story introduces a new element to the plot: Cinder Edna.
Beautiful Cinderella and Plain Cinder Edna. Cinder Edna is Cinderella’s next-door neighbor who, unfortunately, has the same fate as our classic heroine. Both girls have cruel stepmothers and stepsisters, and both are forced to do the housework for the family. However, this is where their similarities stop. They are as different as night and day. Take their appearance for instance.
“Even with her ragged, sooty clothing Cinderella was quite beautiful. Edna, on the other hand, wasn’t much to look at. But she was strong and spunky and knew some good jokes – including an especially funny one about an anteater from Afghanistan.”
All Work and No Play Makes Jill a Dull Girl. Unlike Cinderella, who sits among the cinders and thinks about all her troubles after her chores are done, Cinder Edna likes to sing and whistle while she works. She also takes advantage of the housework that she does. For example, Cinder Edna has learned to make tuna casserole in sixteen different ways, thanks to all the cooking she has done in the house!
In addition, Cinder Edna, being the spunky girl that she is, is not one to sit by cinders the whole day. She thinks of it as a silly way to spend her free time. She would rather be up and about than mope in the dirt the whole day.
“When housework was done, she kept warm by mowing the lawn and cleaning parrot cages for the neighbors at $1.50 an hour. She also taught herself to play the accordion.”
New Age Cinderella. Reading Cinder Edna reminded me of Mary’s feature on Cinderhazel as can be seen here. Cinderhazel and Cinder Edna are similar in character: while not as beautiful as Cinderella, both are not as passive, either.
Given her free-spirited nature, Cinder Edna neither frets nor fusses, and she definitely does not wallow in misery. She likes to take charge of her life and do things on her own accord. She finds solutions to her problems, and eagerly acts on them. She is a woman of the world, and an embodiment of a trait that Filipinos are known for: resilience.
Sometimes All It Takes Is a Trip to the Store. When Cinderella and Cinder Edna learned about the Royal Ball, both were excited to go. However, after being ordered the whole day by her stepfamily, poor Cinderella sits among the cinders again, wishing that she has a fairy godmother who can turn her into a beautiful princess so she can go to the ball. (Of course, fairy godmother magically appears and helps her.)
Cinder Edna, on the other hand, is realistic and does not entertain the idea of fairy godmothers. She deals with her problem in the most practical way possible: using her cage-cleaning money that she has saved up to buy a simple dress to wear to the ball. No sighs, no cries. Just a quick stop to the store.
And who needs glass slippers, anyway? Definitely not Cinder Edna. She prefers to wear her comfy pair of loafers to a night of dancing. She does not need an elegant carriage, either. The bus would do just fine.
It’s More than Class; It’s Character. Another aspect of Ellen Jackson’s version is the social satire embedded in the story. At the Royal Ball, Cinder Edna meets Prince Randolph. Unlike some girls, Cinder Edna thinks of him as a boring, self-absorbed fool whose daily activities revolve around “reviewing the troops and sitting on his throne looking brave and wise.” Luckily for our fair maiden, the king has two sons. When Cinder Edna meets Randolph’s younger brother, Rupert, she begins having the time of her life at the Royal Ball.
“Cinder Edna and Rupert danced and danced. They did the Storybook Stomp and the Cinnamon Twist. They did the Worm and the Fish. They boogied and woogied. At last they stopped for a round of punch. Edna learned that Rupert (1) loved tuna casserole, (2) played the concertina, (3) knew some good jokes.”
Like Cinder Edna, I’d take a Prince Rupert anytime than die of boredom!
Afterthoughts. Ellen Jackson’s version ends the same way as the original story did. Both Cinderella and Cinder Edna found their princes in the end, but only one of them lived happily ever after. Guess who?
Cinder Edna offers a whole new perspective to the character of Cinderella. While both shared the same fate, one decided to use it to one’s advantage. It helps readers understand the value of resourcefulness. Moreover, it enables them understand that, while life can be miserable sometimes, it helps to have fun once in a while. As a friend once said: good vibes only!
Dear readers, if you have not read this book, I urge you to please, please, please grab a copy and enjoy the story of Cinder Edna. =)