Monday, September 24, 2012

Cinderella Around The World: Caribbean Book Review

A few weeks a go I received an email from Becky over at Kid World Citizen. She was  organizing a group of bloggers to review different Cinderella stories from around the world. She included me in the invitation to join in the fun. I was thrilled to receive an invite for this project, but admittedly I was reluctant at first for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, I'm not a big fan of Cinderella stories. My littles have not read the books or seen the movies of the Disney produced princess stories because I am one of those moms who doesn't want to teach my daughter that she needs a prince to rescue her, or teach my son that it is his job to rescue a woman (yes, I was one of the people who eagerly awaited the release of Brave, since it was the first princess story, besides Tangled, where the princess did not need or want someone to rescue her). Of course, they are familiar with the stories because we don't live under a rock and the Disney princesses are everywhere. 

The second reason that I was reluctant was because I wasn't sure how it would fit into our own world explorations. In the end I decided that it would be cool for all of us to see how these stories are told around the world and somehow we would make it fit. I knew that we were going to be learning about St. Lucia next so when Becky sent out a list of suggestions, I was thrilled to see that there was one that originates in The West Indies, Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella By Robert D. San Souci. 

The book is spotted with some French Creole (thank goodness for the glossary in the back) and all of the characters have brown hair and brown skin. 

This Cinderella story is similar in many ways to the well known Disney version, but it is also different. There is a young girl (Cendrillon) whose step mother is cruel and forces her to work like a servant. Her godmother though, is not a fairy, but a real woman who possesses a magic wand. The story is also narrated by the godmother. When Cendrillon comes to her to tell her of the ball that she is not allowed to attend, she tells of the ball. It is a party for a man named Paul and "He is so handsome and well spoken, he's like a prince. Yet he is kind." (p.9) 

On the night of the ball, the godmother waves her wand and changes a breadfruit into a coach, and agoutis, lizards and a manicou become horses, footmen and coachman. Then the godmother waves her wand and Cendrillon is wearing a blue velvet dress and beautiful jewels, along with pink embroidered slippers. The godmother also waves the wand on herself and is adorned in a "fine red dress" so that she may chaperone Cendrillon. 

The rest of the story is pretty parallel to the Cinderella story that most of us know, they go to the ball, they leave in a hurry when the clock strikes midnight and get away just before they are returned to their servant clothes and the animals that had been horses, footmen and a coachman, scurry away. When prince-like (but kind) Paul goes about the next day looking for the beautiful young woman that he had danced with the night before, Cendrillon's step mother tries to squeeze her daughter's foot in while lying that there is no other young woman in the home. 

The godmother waves her wand and makes Cendrillon look as she did the night before and Cendrillon tells her, "no" because she felt that the only reason that Paul liked her was because of the magic of the wand and not for who she really is. So the godmother waves her wand again and Cendrillon is transformed back to her normal self. Paul sees Cendrillon and slips the slipper on to her foot and tells her, "You are as beautiful this minute as you were last night." Then they got married and one can assume that they lived happily ever after. After all, there was plenty of chocolate sherbet, so really how could anyone not live happily ever after with that around? 

After reading the book I asked my littles, if they thought someone could get married after only having known each other for a few hours at a ball. Aiden said, "Definitely not." I tend to agree. However I will say that while this story carries a lot of the same messages as the Disney version, it felt a little less fairytale-ish since they were not royalty and while the man did "save" the woman from her wicked step mother, he saw her as she was and not as a woman in a fancy dress. I also appreciate the fact that Cendrillon insisted that her godmother put her back to normal before she saw Paul. Oh, and there was none of that glass slipper nonsense, who can really walk in those anyway? 

When Becky does her post with links to all of the other Cinderella Around the World Reviews, I will share the link with you all. 

Have you read any Cinderella stories from around the world? Did you find that they were parallel to the well known Disney version? Were there any quirky details that made you smile, such as the bit about Paul being like a prince, but kind? (This makes me chuckle like you wouldn't believe.) 

UPDATE 10/12/12: Here is the link the the Kid World Citizen post that compiles all of the stories reviewed for this project.


  1. Oh, skip Disney and go straight to the original! The boys love to hear fairy tales from Grimm's. I do have issues with the whole gender roles and brutal deaths of bad guys (often) in those stories, as well as the good/evil categorization of the world. However, I think that on balance the beautiful old language and the links to history the stories provide trumps those issues. Plus there are so many themes and motifs that are carried through in modern stories, that it's valuable from a literary criticism point of view to be familiar with them (I suppose the same is true of the Bible, but I won't go THAT far...). We also read fairy tales and myths from other cultures, but I don't think we've read any other versions of Cinderella.

  2. I, too, have tried to avoid Disney princesses like the plague, but think that the fairytale is fun, esp. if conversation is facilitated about how ridiculous it is to expect to be "saved" by a handsome prince. It sounds like the story from the Caribbean perspective is pretty cool, and has some neat messages. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. I love that in this version Cendrillon insists on seeing the prince as her true self and that the godmother chaperones at the party.

  4. I loved that she insisted on being herself as well! That may have been my favorite part of the whole story.

    I can't wait to read the other reviews!

  5. Ha! I love the line "He is so handsome and well spoken, he's like a prince. Yet he is kind." !!!! I agree about the princesses- I love to these versions where she is not just waiting to be rescued! (can't wait to see Brave!!!) Thanks for participating- I know a lot of families who are interested in reading stories about princesses that look like them, instead of the same blonde Cinderella we always see.


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