Cinderella Around the World: US Southwest and Appalachia
As we all know, the Cinderella story predates the Disney version, but did you know that it can also be found in cultures around the world? Becky from Kid World Citizen had the brilliant idea to bring together a group of bloggers to explore the many versions of this story, and this post is part of that series. Once it is available, we will share the link to the complete group of reviews, but as a teaser, you can read about a Greek Cinderella story over at Mud Hut Mama and an African-American retelling at Bilingual Babes.
To celebrate both sides of my little Monkey’s heritage, I am reviewing two books: one from the Appalachian region of the US, and one a Hispanic version from the US Southwest. (Don’t tell my husband I am counting the US Southwest as being part of our little Monkey’s heritage! The Spanish US and Costa Rica are, of course, very different places, but it was the closest I could find :))
Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella by Alan Schroeder
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in the Southeastern part of the United States. They are not like the majestic mountains of the western part of the country (in fact, my Colorado-born sister-in-law insists they shouldn’t be called mountains at all!) but are more like gentle, rolling hills. There are few places I feel more comfortable than in the cool, clean air of the Appalachians, and I love to go back and visit when I can. (As a note: you can tell you are from the area if you say “App-a-LATCH-an” as opposed to the “App-a-LAY-chan” or “App-a-LAY-shian” pronunciations common throughout the rest of the country).
Alan Schroeder’s tale is set in this region, and his heroine is the beautiful, good-hearted Rose, who is forced to do all of the chores around the farm when her father dies and she is left to live with her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Sounds familiar, so far, right? In fact, the general plot of the tale will be familiar to anyone who knows the popular version of Cinderella. Schroeder’s story is his own retelling (as opposed to a one that originated in another culture), so it is basically the same story we all know, with all of the trimmings changed.
So instead of a ball, Rose goes to a hoedown on the other side of Tarbelly Creek, and her prince is a “real rich feller” who made his fortune in sowbellies and grits. It is a hog rather than a fairy godmother that transforms Rose’s clothes into”the purtiest party dress she ever laid eyes on,” and a mushmelon and mice into a “big ol’ wagon” and horses.
Her slippers are still made of glass, though, and she still loses one as she races away from the dance just before midnight. And the enchanted groom-to-be still goes from farm to farm looking for the one whose foot fits inside the slipper (Rose, of course!).
One plot change I really loved was that instead of ending at the wedding, the book finishes with the pair as an older couple, sitting on their porch swing in the evening, without a doubt “the happiest twosome in all o’ Tarbelly Creek.”
As you can see from the quotes included above, the story is told in very heavy regional dialect (even though the author was born and raised in California!). I would issue a strong warning to those who are not native speakers of English, since the dialect at times would be difficult for even native speakers from other regions to fully understand. Sometimes this dialectical telling seems a bit gimmicky, but mostly it is just fun and does add to the atmosphere Schroeder is trying to create. I would definitely recommend reading aloud, as it flows much more easily this way.
I would say this book is for older preschoolers and above. My little Monkey was not particularly interested, though he liked flipping through the pictures of the farm animals. And I didn’t even attempt to read it to him in the regional accent, although this could be fun to do with older kids as a way to discuss how English can be different around the world.
Overall I enjoyed this re-telling of the Cinderella tale, though I doubt I will be reading it with my son anytime soon.
Estrellita de oro/Little Gold Star: A Cinderella Cuento by Joe Hayes
As an anthropologist, I really fell in love with Joe Hayes’ version of the Cinderella tale, in which he weaves together the slightly different versions of the story he collected throughout the US Southwest. Hayes grew up in southern Arizona and learned to speak Spanish from his many Mexican-American friends and schoolmates. He is now a well-known storyteller and has published a number of bilingual books, including La Llorona/The Weeping Woman, also based on a traditional tale.
This Cinderella story will still be familiar to readers but with a number of key differences. As with Appalachian Rose, the heroine Arcía is left to live with her evil stepmother and stepsisters, although it is because her sheep-herding father is away in the mountains for the season. (Hayes is careful never to call the new wife and her daughters “stepmother” and “stepsisters,” instead always calling them by their names, to avoid perpetuating all of the negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with these terms).
The book’s title comes from Arcía’s encounter with a magical hawk who visits her while she is washing wool in a stream. Because she is good-hearted and listens to the hawk’s instructions, she is rewarded with a beautiful gold star on her forehead. When her selfish stepsisters have similar encounters, they call the bird ugly names and refuse to listen. As a result, one receives a donkey ear on her forehead and the other a green cow’s horn!
Since Arcía is forbidden to go to the ball, she instead peeks in the window, where the light from her gold star dazzles everyone inside, including the prince. Frightened, Arcía runs away, and the prince must go looking for her. It is a cat that alerts the prince to her presence when he arrives at her home, as the stepmother has forced her to hide under a table during his visit.
I especially loved that Hayes incorporated elements of regional storytelling into his tale, such as the occasional use of rhymed verses. In his author’s note, he tells us that the verse at the end, for example, was very common in old stories from the area and was often used to close one story by asking for another: “I came on a colt/ and I’ll leave on its mother./ If you liked this story,/ then tell me another!” (Vine en una yegua/ y me voy en el potro./ Si te gustó este cuento,/ ¡que me cuentes otro!)
Again, I would recommend this for older preschoolers and above, although my little Monkey enjoyed a “light” version of the story that focused more on what was happening in the beautiful pictures. (A note about the pictures – be sure to read the back cover for more on the mother-daughter team that created them. The wonderful folkloric painter Gloria Osuna Perez died from cancer in the middle of the project, and so it was completed by her daughter, also an artist, as a loving tribute to her mother, based on their many conversations about the project).
While I enjoyed the Appalachian tale, my favorite by far (and my little Monkey’s) was the Southwestern version, with its colorful paintings and more unusual story.
Did you enjoy the Cinderella story growing up? Is it one that you still share with your children today?
This post has been shared at the Hispanic Heritage Month Blog Hop Fiesta, iving Life Intentionally’s TGIF Party, My Life’s a Treasure’s Our Favorite Things, Natural Mothers Network’s Seasonal Sunday Celebration, My Little Bookcase’s The Children’s Bookshelf, and the Kid Lit Blog Hop #2.