Retold by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Mary Blair
“This is a story about darkness and light, about sorrow and joy, about something lost and something found. This is a story about Love.”
A unique start to a traditional fairy tale—Rylant forgoes the typical, “Once upon a time” introduction and sets the stage for a love story—initially lessening the element of magic and the distance of time.
Throughout the story, Rylant continues to emphasize the concept of love early on expressing that Cinderella, “…wished for one thing only: Love. Every day Cinderella wished for Love.” This was unlike her stepsisters, who only wished for riches. “Love meant nothing, and if Love ever did come to them, it is unlikely they would even have known what it was.”
I wonder why Rylant always capitalized the “L” in “Love?”
From what I can remember of Disney’s version of Cinderella, it is never really explained why one may fall in love with the prince other than for the reason that he is a good looking prince. Being given the name “Charming,” only means that the prince has a talent for getting whatever ladies he would like to have. Rylant helps me to see the prince as someone other than just that by describing him as “…a son with integrity and courage and loyalty and honor. The young prince had every quality anyone could ask of a man who would someday be king.” By describing the prince in this way, Rylant again lessens the element of fairy tale for me and gives me more of a feeling of reality. Prince or no prince, these are important qualities for a man to possess and are a sign that a man will treat a woman the way she should be treated.
The prince, who was never named Charming, was not married because he had not yet fallen in love. He was yearning for something more—just as Cinderella was yearning for something more.
Rylant, retelling the Walt Disney version of Cinderella, did keep the essential elements of the fairy tale—including the Fairy Godmother and her magic. In spite of the unrealistic magic, however, Rylant continued to emphasize the type of magic that is realistic—falling in love. “Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world? How does a young man find his maiden? His heart leads him. He finds her in a room. He asks her to dance. And when he touches her, he knows…In silence, Love found them [Cinderella and the prince]”
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the prince bumped into Cinderella when she was wearing rags. Through the text, it would seem as though he would have found her regardless of her attendance at the ball.
I find it interesting that Rylant chose to end the fairy tale with, “They lived happily ever after,” when she began it in such a non-traditional way. I would have expected her to end the story as she had started it—emphasizing the story of love.
The Fleur de Lis covering the front page and found throughout the illustrations confirm that Walt Disney’s version of Cinderella is based on the story told in France—where the introduction of the glass slippers, mice, and pumpkin became important symbols of this traditional tale that we recognize today.
Many of the illustrations throughout the story reminded me of the images captured in the Disney movie—particularly the scene of the stepmother and sisters practicing their music, the horse-drawn carriage, the castle, and the characters themselves.
Although there were similarities (also noted in copyright specific images that were used from Disney), the illustrations lacked emotional appeal for me. The illustrations, although full-bled, did not enable me to connect with the characters because they were distant and not very detailed. The lines did not seem “clean,” which I believe gave the images more of a cartoon feel. The only face that was drawn with true detail was that of the evil-step-mother, which in my mind did make her stand out. Most illustrations were dark and only used a few colors within the limited color palette.
I find the mesh between the illustrations and the text very interesting because in my opinion, the text seems to take on a more serious tone—emphasizing love—a very real emotion—versus the illustrations that have a more distant and loose feel. On the other hand, perhaps since love is such a subjective and personal thing—maybe Blair chose to illustrate with neutral and blurry images to emphasize that love—is not always something that can be defined in words or pictures and is different for all.