By Bruce Calhoun
Perhaps the most famous fairy tale in Western literature, Cinderella has been retold and reimagined in a staggering number of books and movies. The books and movies fall within two categories: modern day Cinderella stories featuring an underdog heroine and historical Cinderella stories with a twist – such as telling the story from the point of view of a mouse that gets turned into a horse.
“Cinderella” has also become part of a catchphrase for any sports team that attains great success against all odds or any individual who goes from rags to riches. I will confine myself to commenting on a few historical Cinderella books, including my own: Ardennia: The Unlikely Story of Cinderella’s Prince.
Let’s start with Cinderella and the Prince by Bridget Cantwell. In a sentence this version of Cinderella is about childhood friends James and Gabriella reuniting to save the kingdom of Essenia from an evil prince (we authors love to have titles like Narnia, Ardennia and Essenia). The plot comes down to Gabriella – the Cinderella in this story – preventing her stepmother from stealing her inheritance. The magic that overcomes all obstacles in this story comes from Gabriella’s courage, loyalty, and love for her friends.
The Prince’s Diary by Renee Ting simply takes a peek at Cinderella’s prince’s personal diary to tell the tale from his point of view. This novella of 32 pages is geared towards juveniles. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, however, was written for older readers and was made into a popular movie. In this take on Cinderella the magic flows from the gift of obedience that is given to her by a fairy. As you can imagine this gift complicates life for Cinderella and is something she must overcome. To spice things up various mythical creatures such as elves, ogres, gnomes and giants were incorporated into the tale.
Recent Cinderella spin offs are: Cinderella is evil (2020) by Jamie Campell (tells story from viewpoint of Cinderella’s sister), Creating Cinderella (2020) by K.A. Mitimore (Twelve retold stories by twelve different authors), Cinderella is Dead by (2020) Kalynn Bayron (Two hundred years after Cinderella found her prince a new generation of teen girls attend an annual ball) and, of course, Ardennia (release date October 5, 2021).
Ardennia, in a nutshell, captures the magic, brutality and earthiness of the age of chivalry as it chronicles the many adventures and tribulations of Cinderella’s prince. It uses the same point of view as The Prince’s Diary, but adds original tales about pixies, trolls, dwarves, fairies and nymphs. It also has secondary and tertiary love stories that feature a buffoon and a hunchback.
In addition, Ardennia brings to life an amazing number of memorable medieval characters that include a bean counter who wagers his gold tooth in a dice game, a merchant who can never be too prosperous, a band of female brigands, pilgrims that argue over who is the most pious, a cobbler who has come into the possession of a goose that lays golden eggs, a hermit who is mistaken for a hobgoblin and a beggar who has been cursed with leprosy for committing all the cardinal sins.
What makes Ardennia unique is that it adheres to the following tenent: There is much that is magical in this world, but hardly any real magic to be had. This nuance allows for a great deal of realism in my novel and keeps the magic – most of the time – at the periphery of the action.
I am a literature-major drop out who received a Bachelor’s degree in biology and science education from the University of Wisconsin. I taught marine biology in Puerto Rico, worked as a diver for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, wrote and award winning play and founded Save the Rainforest in 1988 www.savetherainforestnow.org. In my spare time I read, bicycle, cross country ski and write plays and novels.
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