Austen · Cinderella · NovElla · YA

Cinderella’s Type

Crown

Does Cinderella have a type? In the original fairy tales, such as Perrault’s Cendrillon or Aschenputtel  by the Brothers Grimm, the prince is not really described. Do his princely qualities mean the same thing to everyone? He is left ambiguous, allowing the reader to imagine him as tall or short, light or dark, broad or lean… pick your preference. This is common in fairy tales and highlights the idea of an archetype in its most basic form. The hero is a ‘prince’ or a ‘knight’ or a fill-in-the-blank ‘type’ of person, but the details are left to the imagination.

Knight

The more you get to know a person, the easier it is to look past their appearance and ‘see’ their true self. Fairy tales are usually short and many of them began as oral tales, told through the generations. In the sparsely-detailed, economical style of telling fairy tales and folktales, the lack of description allows the listener to imagine whomever they want as the characters. The heroine may like the hero for his personality, but the story cuts to the chase and says that he is kind and handsome, or she is beautiful, and therefore the story can quickly appeal to the reader (or listener) without lengthy getting-to-know-you chapters.

With characters left as broad ‘types’, the open-ended blankness is ideal for retellings and is one of the reasons fairy tales lend themselves so well to new versions and variations. Many of these are much longer and we get the details filled-in, but some of those details will appeal to you more than others. Some just won’t be your style. What if Cinderella had decided Prince Charming wasn’t her type?

Prince

Author Jenni James explores this in her contemporary retelling, Not Cinderella’s Type, set in the modern world and populated by teenage characters in high school.

Not Cinderella's Type

Main character Indy stands in as our Cinderella, when she goes to live with her aunt, uncle, and two cousins. Treated more like a personal servant than family, Indy needs the new perspective of popular guy Bryant to help her escape a mentally harmful situation. If only she can forgive him for killing her cat…

There is also a movie based on the book:

Cute and fun on the surface, this story turned out to be more thought-provoking than I originally expected. Although the characters sometimes come across as a tad unrealistic, they give a thoughtful presentation of emotional abuse and recovery in the aftermath. I thought it was a particularly relevant point to highlight at this time, when many have been staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Home isn’t always safe, which is a common feature in Cinderella tales, and my heart goes out to anyone at risk.

Beyond Indy’s situation in Not Cinderella’s Type, we do not see many of the traditional Cinderella plot points having pivotal roles, but fairy-tale fans will still find several nods to the common tropes such as a missing shoe.

Coincidentally, author Jenni James has also written not one, but two different book series of modern Jane Austen retellings: “The Jane Austen Diaries” and “Austen in Love”, not to mention her series of more traditionally-set fairy tales in the “Faerie Tale Collection”. Looks interesting!

Check out other Cinderella versions I’ve discussed in the list on my Introducing Cinderella page.

 

2 thoughts on “Cinderella’s Type

  1. Nice post; your thoughts are interesting and ones I hadn’t considered before, about types and safety. Hope you’re doing well during all this craziness. Brighter days are coming!

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