Most people are likely to read CINDERELLA and immediately conclude that it's nothing but a Disney fairy-tale about a poor girl who would have been a nobody had she not been rescued from distress by a charming prince. Indeed, books have been written, and terminologies such as Cinderella Syndrome coined, thanks to a story by the Grimm brothers made popular by Walt Disney.
I am here to enlighten and lead you to fresh and thoughtful perspectives as we discern moral lessons from Cinderella. These vital life lessons will be served as a series for easier digestion, as Ubuntu Courtyard seeks to inspire, educate and empower you in your careers, business dealings, and relationships. It's not just a story for poor little girls who live in dreamland. This ladies and gentlemen is a rags-to-riches tale that most chosen people will likely encounter at some point as they transition from being nobodies to whom they were created to be. The analysis will be based mainly on my favourite version, Cinderella 2015. I will also stay true to the main lessons from the original post-war version, released in 1950.
It's been argued that the original Cinderella movie was a parable of real-life entrepreneurial struggles that plagued Walt Disney at the end of World War II. At the time of production, he was facing bankruptcy. However, Cinderella became a huge success, inspiring many in the process, from ordinary men, women and children trying to escape post-war memories to costume designers such as Christian Dior. Cinderella was a story that brought a feel-good factor to people who had survived the harsh realities of war. Women yearned to dress in ball gowns, after toiling for years in overalls to support the men fighting in the trenches and further-afield.
Real princesses often do not wear crowns
At the beginning of Cinderella's 2015 remake, we learn about a girl called Ella, who led a happy, contented life. Although she didn't live in a castle, she was raised to be a happy princess with principles by adoring parents. Ella was a girl who thrived on love, blossoming in a little kingdom made possible by a loving mother and a hard-working father. Kind she was, and treated animals and servants with tenderness. That was enough to make her a princess. Unfortunately, Ella's world is shattered by the death of her mother, and later on, her father. She finds herself draped in a servant's costume, serving and waiting on her wicked step-mother and step-sisters while living in the cold attic.
Most people who are quick to dismiss Cinderella fail to realise that she already had something deep inside of her long before her predicament. A lot of princes and princesses have been robbed of their places and made to wear servant garments. You could be the most qualified or the hardest working, yet your efforts are barely appreciated. Remember who you are, and quit defining yourself by where they've placed you. Believe their descriptions at your own peril. They might have taken all the luxury trappings that some use to define success, but they can never touch the real prince or princess inside of you. Just because you not wearing a crown doesn't mean that you're not destined to succeed, and advance to where you should be.
Have courage and be kind
That phrase is the hallmark of the movie. Cinderella's mother uttered the words just before her death. She told her daughter that being courageous and kind was a great secret that would take her through life's many trials. Her mum knew that Ella had a heart of gold compared to most people. We will touch on how these acts helped transform Cinderella's life. Many people often assume that being kind is a sign of weakness. It takes much strength to be considerate of those who treat you wrong. However, being a good person and compassionate opens the right doors that no man could ever shut, even though it might take a while. Don't block your blessings by stooping low, and acting like those who thrive on tormenting others. They are sad. Let them knock themselves out, you have better things to aim for and a destiny to reach. There's magic in kindness.
Trust your instincts
We all have a natural gift to discern when something is off about people we meet in life. Instincts serve as warning and protection mechanisms. They are different from being judgemental and critical of others because of our fears. Some of us have had to learn the hard way. Alarm bells (instincts) concerning people who would later take us to the cleaners initially went off, but we chose to override them. Not that Cinderella could do much about her step-mother, but she immediately felt uneasy about the newcomers, despite extending a warm welcome and acting generously towards them. In the movie, they show Ella feeling somewhat uncomfortable about Lady Tremaine, Drizella and Anastasia.
In Cinderella 2015, they say that although her step-mother tried to portray herself as a grieving widow, the way she carried herself spoke volumes. "She had no grief, but wore it wonderfully well." She acted the part, but deep down, she was very malicious and cunning. Just because some people say the right words does not always mean that they are sincere. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut feelings. You've heard before, and I'll say it again. When you're not sure about people, watch their actions, not what they say. Action speaks louder than words. You only have to watch the movie to get a grasp of my point. Watch her in action as she parties in the drawing room, while Cinderella's father tries to focus on work.
What really matters in loving relationships
When Ella’s father leaves the family home for a business trip, he asks Cinderella what she'd like him to bring back from his travels. Driven by material desires despite their lack of style (true, you can't buy class), Drizella and Anastasia ask for parasols and lace. There’s nothing wrong with wanting beautiful things, but that’s their only concern upon receiving the news about their step-father’s death. Our Ella is only concerned about her father, and the fact that she’d miss him terribly. She asks him to bring her back the first branch that brushes on his shoulders during his business travels as a merchant. Ella’s wish is to see him again. She'd blessed her father's marriage to Lady Tremaine, hoping that it would give him a second chance to finding true happiness. A lot of the high-fliers think that the people in their lives are mostly concerned about the material possessions that they bring. The truth is, the people who matter would rather spend quality time with them.
Although sad about his departure, Ella doesn't stand in her father’s way or make him feel guilty. She runs after his carriage as she bids him goodbye, while the wicked trio watch in astonishment. It takes me to The Alchemist, and a girl called Fatima. As Santiago journeys towards his destiny, his path crosses with a girl who steals his heart, to the point of wanting to forget about the buried treasure that he's been looking for all along. It goes to show that true love is more precious than gold. Fatima acknowledges that indeed, Santiago is the man she longed meet. However, she goes on to say the most adorable words that prove the kind of girl Fatima is, just like Ella. She tells Santiago that she'd rather see him leave in pursuit of his dream, instead of limiting him in the name of love. She'd rather wait. "I'm a desert woman, and I'm proud of that. I want my husband to wander as free as the wind that shapes the dunes. And, if I have to, I will accept the fact that he's become a part of the clouds, and the animals, and the water, and the desert." (p.94)
There are so many partners, wives, husbands and children who would rather spend time with successful and hard working people in their lives, not the material things that money can buy. However, they also appreciate that their loved ones have destinies to fulfil, and places to go. And so they will bless them each time they leave. If you are one such person in pursuit of a dream, don’t take those who wait for granted. Treasure them, and make yourself wholly present whenever you can. If you don't, they'll one day adapt and learn to live without you. Ella's story teaches us that no amount of money can ever buy cherished moments spent with our loved ones. Drizella, Anastasia and Lady Tremaine didn’t have that kind of love for Cinderella’s father.
There's a blessing in isolation
After offering to give up her larger bedroom for step-sisters who always find a reason to bicker, there is no gratitude from any of them. You’d think that they'd be thankful for her consideration. Instead, they see a weakness. Not only do they take her spacious bedroom, her step-mother asks her to move to the attic. It’s Ella's house too, the very place that withstood the test of time for over 200 years.
Ella picks up the 'bric-a-brac' that her step-mother is anxious to get rid of (anything that reminds her of Ella's mum) as she vows to put her stamp. "It would keep you amused!" she sarcastically says, as she hands over a sewing kit that used to belong to Ella’s mum. Lady Tremaine sees no value in it, but, it is the very kit that Ella uses to spruce up her mother's old dress to wear to the ball. She also finds peace in the attic and immediately tries to make the place as homely as possible. She’d rather talk to the mice who also feel safe there; away from the dreaded cat. We later see Ella write in her secret journal as if she is talking to her mother. There's no way she would have been able to do so had she had a room next to her step-sisters.
Perhaps it was well that her step-mother and step-sisters were cruel to her, because had she not run to the forest, she might have never met the prince.
There's always a blessing in spending time alone. Good things usually are produced away from prying eyes. When you are rejected for whatever reason, continue to work on your dreams in silence. I'm sure many of you have heard of a phrase which pertains to being buried in the soil, but the seed needed darkness to come alive. Recently came across an Instagram post by an American comedian known as comediaandjpryor. He recently rose to fame, thanks to a viral video of him and his toddler son having a conversation as they watched TV. In the post, he talks about using negative vibes from others to ignite the power within. He writes, "It takes negative and positive combined to cause energy to charge a battery." How very true. Sometimes, harsh experiences only serve to push us into another dimension. Stay positive anyway. Weapons fashioned against you can be stepping stones to the palace. Find your peace (and warmth) even if you find yourself in the cold attic. Keep focused instead of getting distracted by the behaviour of those who would rather see you banished.
Indeed, their ongoing cruelty leads Ella into the forest, into Kit’s pathway. At the time, she doesn’t know that she’s met a prince and a future king. I absolutely love Disney’s narrative about this new development. “Perhaps it was well that her step-mother and step-sisters were cruel to her, because had she not run to the forest, she might have never met the prince.” They might think that they have imprisoned you in the attic and thrown away the keys, but they don’t realise that they're elevating you to a higher level. Remember that next time you encounter barricades set in place to bring you down.
In the next article of the Cinderella series, we will look at what it means to be named after unfortunate circumstances. What do you do when they refer to you according to your condition or situation, not who you’re truly are? Her step-sisters and step-mother would continue to laugh and abuse her, as well as change her name from Ella to Cinderella.
Thanks for reading!
From books we love to the box office, there is always an intriguing tale shaped and inspired by who we are.