This weekend’s post is inspired by a Weekly Writer Wisdom post I saw on Sara Letourneau’s blog that asks:
What stories (novels, myths, legends, etc.) have taken up residence in your soul? How or why do you think they moved you to this degree? Has a story ever inspired you to do something new or different, change your worldview, etc.? Is this something you hope to accomplish with your own work?
Instead of focusing on several books/stories that have resonated with me, I’ll instead discuss one that has stuck with me since the first time I read it as a child, Cinderella.
We’re all familiar with this fairy tale about a girl who’s abused by her evil step-mother, attends a ball with the help of her fairy god mother, and is later rescued from her horrible life by a charming prince. I can’t recall having the story read to me, but I do recall reading it over and over again as a kid.
I lived in Jamaica with my aunt at the time, and my copy of the story was published by Little Golden Book. It was the Disney version of the story. I forgot how I acquired the book, but I read it so often that the cover got smudged, the pages bent, and the book almost fell apart. But I never parted with it. I even brought it with me when I immigrated to the U.S. as a teen. (It’s around here, somewhere.)
The story resonated with me because it’s basically about an orphan who has a horrid life but wishes for something better and is later rescued. As I kid, and even now, I hoped the same for myself. My life wasn’t awful back then, though my crazy imagination often dramatized it. And it isn’t awful now either.
Back then, my parents lived in the states, working to send back money to us, and I missed them terribly. I hated housework and as a girl in a Caribbean household, you are expected to cook and clean. I despised doing so, especially on Saturdays when my boy cousins would watch TV and play and I’d have to hand-wash clothes and help with breakfast. I thought I was indeed a Cinderella, and I yearned for my parents to rescue me and fly me away to that magical land of opportunities, where I’m sure there’d be no house chores.
And still I wish to be rescued.
I now have my parents (I love them, but they are annoying) and am older, but am sometimes so burdened by my student loans that I wish, hope, yearn (beg) for relief that I doubt will come. I no longer think of myself as a Cinderella, but, like her, I do wish to be rescued from my situation.
Apart from relating to her when I was a kid, I also loved the magic and whimsy in the story. The Disney version isn’t as gruesome as the original fairy tale, but it hints at some darkness in the story through Cinderella’s mistreatment and that slight, underlying darkness also interested me. Since I had no other books like Cinderella, I entertained myself back then by writing my own. I don’t know if that’s how my love of writing came about, but it’s one of the many starting points I can remember.
My stories back then were basically rip-offs of Cinderella with different names given to the characters. They were often set in Jamaica. Even now, the stories I imagine are often influenced by the fairy tale. I guess Cinderella has been ingrained in my imagination.
It has also greatly influenced the types of stories I enjoy reading, especially those of my favorite genre, fantasy. I tend to gravitate more toward stories about individuals who have a hard life and are given a opportunity to gain something better. These opportunities usually come about by chance: they discover a new ability; it’s revealed that they are the “chosen one”; some long-lost relative or other person shows up to rescue them. Thus it’s no surprise that Harry Potter is one of my favorite books. Harry is basically a Cinderella.
I also enjoy twists on this trope where characters save themselves instead of waiting to be rescued, or are rescued but their new situation is worse or just as stressful as before. For example, Cinder, from Marissa Meyer’s sci-fi reimagining of Cinderella tries to rescue herself from her step-mother’s clutches but isn’t in a better situation after having done so.
It’s amazing that this fairy tale has stuck with me for so long and has influenced me in so many ways — how I view my life, my imagination, and the things that interest me. I doubt its influence will leave me, so I’ll continue with it.
What I’m reading this weekend:
Mad Ship by Robin Hobb
The second in Hobb’s Liveship Traders fantasy series. I’m still buddy-reading this with Emily. I’m enjoying it so far but, ugh!, Robin Hobb’s unlikable characters (in this case, Malta) sometimes drain me. Someone needs to discipline that child. I kind of wish I only had to read Althea, Brashen, Amber, and the serpents’ sections. I don’t really care for the other characters (and there’re so many of them too, ugh!).
Parasites: Tales of Humanity’s Most Unwelcome Guests by Rosemary Drisdelle
A nonfiction book. I’m slowly making my way through this. It’s interesting, but I keep falling asleep when I read it. I’ll try reading it during the day.
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
The second in the Inheritance Cycle, a YA fantasy series. I’m trying to complete it by the end of March.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
A memoir. I had to buy it. The wait lists at my libraries for physical and electronic copies are crazy long.