Childhood story. Commonplace character. Cinderella. A simpleton. An unlucky girl. With disregarded merit and beauty. Despised for not being cunning. Maltreated because she is unpretentious. Her stepsisters give her hell and even self-injure themselves out of malice. However, Cinderella endures everything silently until fairies come to her succor and magic turns wind in her favor. A magical windfall and the fairy tale ends. Cinderella lives happily ever after.
Even today, fairy tales end on a happy note. Frances Minter’s light-hearted Sleepless Beauty is a novel addition. An illustrated book of verses, it features a chief character of Beauty who is overly smart to carry the day.
Brought up in a chic Manhattan apartment, she on her 14th birthday party, accidentally falls asleep because of a curse played by a witch. In the rest of the story, Beauty calls the shots. She manages to fool the witch and frees herself with the help of a song written by a rockstar who later turns out to be her prince and what follows is a happy conclusion.
Sleepless Beauty has an interesting crunch in it: the witch is scary, the threat is real, and Beauty triumphs romantically in the end. The whole tale reworks just one popular rendering of Sleepless Beauty– a sage of many incarnations. Unlike a passive heroine Cinderella, there is a progressive twist in the character of Beauty who is a ‘doer’, subverting traditional scenarios in order to skewer the values that Cinderella reinforced sometimes back.
This paradigm shift, even in fairy tales, implies many a point. The foremost is that the world is not the same. And it won’t be ever. Change is something inevitable. Cinderella has not died. The fact is that she is no more wanted.
An embodiment of virtues, a paragon of truthfulness, and a byword of selflessness— Cinderella is confined to archives. Beauty has stolen the march. She is on the stage, glittering under the flash-bulbs, swaying the world with her bold persona.
Yes, she’s bold! Rather bold and beautiful. No hang-ups, no hesitations; striking the iron when it’s hot, unmindful about burning of fingers and carrying the day impudently. This is the quintessence of Beauty. Witches won’t stop her and world she won’t leave. Pain she cannot endure but prince she can entice.
The character of Beauty is all-alluring. Don’t think she is ‘Revamped Cinderella’. She is Beauty out and out. No white dress, no long hair, no golden wings, no magic wand: Beauty is bereft of all such frippery.
She is more or less a clever playboy. She thinks not of bees and butterflies, but burgers and burgundy. She dreams not of flowers and fragrances, but of fads, fans and followers. Reason is her anathema; fascination her manna. Love is her pet dog; lust her pet toy.
She is the fast worker for she knows the art of fast-talk. Relations matter only when they suffice her interest. Emotional bouts are her sly songs. Time is her slave. She rides it like a queen and whips it like a sturdy horse woman.
Conversely, Cinderella is antipathic. She is everything save Beauty. Her image evokes no razzle-dazzle. She has gathered an anachronistic halo. She is no oil painting but symbolizes something living, pulsating and seeing.
Small wonder, her tale has been rolled up, long back. Every aspect belonging to her has met a steep downslide. Something really seems jinxing Cinderella. Beauty has rendered her a cockshy. She can’t appeal the wandering eyes and appease their sentimental loitering.
Nonetheless, Cinderella is! She epitomizes something that is never ancient history altogether. Some characters don’t just represent any airy-fairy thinking but connote a complete ideology. Mr. Man Friday of Robinson Crusoe is still a password of loyalty. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde still depict the duality in human nature. Lucy of Wordsworth still resonates selfless love.
Characters are not mere contrived creations, they are connatural conceptions. They are born because their reflections exist somewhere around us, and keep existing endlessly with several changing add-ons.
So, no pink elephants around! Cinderella extends beyond fairy tales. She sans a fairy touch is someone existing somewhere in our tangible, real world in a miniscule ratio. She is perhaps anguished and concerned about the ones of her ilk.
But the truth is that we aren’t like Cinderella. We’ve changed our roles and we’ve come a long way since Sleepless Beauty. Even though we hold on to smiles and songs, dreams and desires, high talk and vainglory, we actually make lots of hard choices, pity compromises, and cry fewer tears. Smartly oriented enough, we see nothing beyond mirrors that mask the diseased obsessions we are swathed in.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK