Like many little girls, I loved the story of Cinderella. What a beautiful fairy story: you will all know it, so I won’t write a synopsis.
The story concludes, of course, with the line:
“…and they all lived happily ever after.”
Being International Day of Happiness today, this line is the most intriguing. Did Cinderella and her Prince Charming really live happily ever after? And what does ‘happy’ mean anyway?
Cinderella is likely to have been much happier living in the palace with her prince. It would have been much better than living in the kitchen basement as she was made to do by her wicked stepmother and ugly stepsisters. In the palace, she would not have had to do any cleaning or cooking. She would have had instead of rags to wear, wardrobes full of beautiful dresses and shoes.
The grown-up me finds the supposed palace life rather attractive. No housework! No cooking! All the dresses, shoes, and handbags I could want!
Yes, those things may make Cinderella happy – a material happiness, you might say.
And Prince Charming – it was love at first sight. We believe he and Cinderella are the perfect match – fairytale true love. I don’t know about you, but reading the story when I was little I imagined their lives to be exemplary: no rows, no worries, the sun always shining, a family complete with many little princes and princesses. Everything always going their way.
That kind of life sounds happy to me. Unrealistic, but happy.
Being a fairy story, anything is possible. After all, Cinderella has a Fairy Godmother who has already whipped up a fancy frock, and carriage to help her snag her prince – surely with a wave of her wand she can make anything better?
I love Roald Dahl’s version of Cinderella, from Revolting Rhymes, which suggests a very different version of events.
I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
just to keep the children happy.
The poem says that when the ugly stepsisters try on the slipper and fail, he chops off their heads without hesitation – and a great deal of glee.
Poor Cindy’s heart was torn to shreds.
My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads!
How could I marry anyone
Who does that sort of thing for fun?
The Prince cried, ‘Who’s this dirty slut?
‘Off with her nut! Off with her nut!’
Just then, all in a blaze of light,
The Magic Fairy hove in sight,
Her Magic Wand went swoosh and swish!
‘Cindy! ‘she cried, ‘come make a wish!
‘Wish anything and have no doubt
‘That I will make it come about!’
Cindy answered, ‘Oh kind Fairy,
‘This time I shall be more wary.
‘No more Princes, no more money.
‘I have had my taste of honey.
I’m wishing for a decent man.
‘They’re hard to find. D’you think you can?’
Within a minute, Cinderella
Was married to a lovely feller,
A simple jam maker by trade,
Who sold good home-made marmalade.
Their house was filled with smiles and laughter
And they were happy ever after.
In real life, being happy all day every day is wholly unrealistic. Even with the sunniest, most optimistic personality, things cannot always go your way. Bad things will happen. People can turn out to be not quite what you thought they were.
Happiness includes an acceptance that there is no ‘happily ever after’. Awful things may happen, things beyond your control. However, there is joy to be had every day. That joy is usually to be found in the small things: a smile, a flower, a happy memory.
Resilience, too, is important. An understanding that things won’t always go your way, and developing an internal strength to help you get back up again.
Sadly, in the real world there are no magic wands to give you whatever you want. But we can still make the best of things with what we have, find what happiness we can.
We can each be our own Fairy Godmother.
Linking up with Mum Turned Mom: Prompt word ‘Cinderella’