05 May 2007

Great Children's Literature: Cinder Edna

One of our readers recommended Cinder Edna, a wonderful, more feminist version of the classic tale of Cinderella by Ellen Jackson. There are many different versions of Cinderella from various cultures, but the common theme is that a poor girl's only way our of her deplorable situation is the handsome prince, not Cinder Edna.

Cinder Edna does find a prince, but her happiness is not dependent upon it. Her life is contrasted to her neighbor Cinderella's. The two girls have many things in common, like being forced to work for their wicked stepmothers and stepsisters, but Cinder Edna learns skills from these experiences and earns a little money on the side too. She doesn't depend upon a fairy godmother to give her a dress for the ball, but she puts one on lay away. Cinder Edna doesn't ride a pumpkin turned into a carriage, but she takes the bus, which also leaves at midnight from the ball. And Cinder Edna does not wear glass slippers, but she wears her comfortable loafers instead. While Cinderella ends up marrying the boring, handsome prince and living in the grand palace, "the girl who had been known as Cinder Edna ended up in a small cottage with solar heating. During the day she studied waste disposal engineering and cared for orphaned kittens." Cinder Edna marries the handsome prince's brother, who is in charge of the recycling plant.

My daughter was first introduced to the world of princesses from her best friend, much to my displeasure. I was concerned about the message many of these tales send to children about how happiness is achieved and the value of beauty. I would try to have conversations with her about this subject, but at three years old, she couldn't grasp what I was saying. I was torn between letting her have her own interests and the antifeminism in such stories, but my anxieties were relieved when I listened to her princess dramatic play full of her own ideas. Now that she is older, she is able to laugh and enjoy Cinder Edna, although she still insisted Cinderella lived happily ever after in the grand palace with the boring, handsome prince.

If you are looking for another funny version of Cinderella, check out Bubba the Cowboy Prince. Bubba is rescued from his evil stepfather and stepbrothers by the Dolly Parton look alike Miz Lurleen.

"Play is the highest form of research." -Albert Einstein