Sunday, June 20

Rebecca Solnit: Cinderella released | Babelia

Prince Daigual, who was very polite, regretted having frightened his guest and that she had lost her shoe. During the party he had not stopped asking questions, but no one knew what the girl’s name was or where she lived, so the next day he climbed on the back of his splendid black mare and rode to knock on the doors and find out if the person wearing that shoe was there.

“No,” answered those who lived in the big brick house that stood by the river, and:

“No,” answered those who lived in the gray mansion on the hill, and:

“No,” answered those who lived in the tower near the forest, and:

“No,” replied the farmer, whose golden wheat fields extended far beyond her beautiful farmhouse, and:

“No,” replied the watchmaker, who lived in a little house full of ticking clocks, and:

“No,” replied the painter of the house full of pictures of animals and places that we only see in dreams (and in her paintings), and:

“No,” answered the person who was teaching dance classes in his house full of music, and:

“No,” replied the smith as she forged iron in her forge, and:

“No,” replied the bird doctor, curing a sparrow’s wing,

and then the prince came to Cinderella’s house.

The door was opened by the stepmother, who, wishing that her daughters were friends of a prince, said that perhaps the lost shoe was theirs. So the prince came into the living room and sat on the golden sofa, and a sister and then the other tried on the shoe, but their feet were too small, since when a person spends the whole day sitting at home and she never runs down to the river or returns from the market loaded with baskets full of products, her feet do not get as strong and robust as they should.

Cinderella saw the prince when he brought the tea and cake he had just taken from the oven into the living room. Suddenly she was fed up with many things: being in the kitchen, not sitting at the table, feeling that she was less important than her stepsisters, not being invited to parties.

“The shoe is mine,” he said.

They all looked at her in surprise.

The prince handed it to her and she took the other out of her pocket (because good dresses have big pockets) and slipped on her crystal shoes, which had not disappeared when her evening gown had become her everyday dress again. Sometimes, the fairy godmothers neglect some other detail.

The two sisters rushed out of the room with a tantrum — or two tantrums, one per head — because they believed they had to be more important than their stepsister. Their mother had always told them that there were not enough things for everyone and that they should take them away from others in order to get enough for themselves. Which, by the way, was not true.

There is always enough for everyone if it is shared properly, or if it has been shared properly before our arrival. There is enough food, enough love, enough houses, enough time, enough crayons, and enough people to make friends.

When the stepmother left, the fairy godmother appeared in a cloud of dark blue dust. In the room there were only the prince and Cinderella, in addition to that blue woman with magical powers, but the prince hardly noticed the newcomer.

“So,” he said, “you’re the girl who ran away.” Why?

“I was scared,” Cinderella replied, though she felt very embarrassed. I am a maid and I am not supposed to go to dances or have more beautiful clothes than my stepsisters.

At that moment the fairy godmother intervened:

—You are the daughter of a great judge who had to go very far to help other people and who believed that his new wife and her daughters would be good. You are the daughter of a great ship captain who lost her ship at sea and will one day return home on another ship.

Besides, “continued the fairy godmother,” no one is good or valuable because their parents are who they are, or bad because their parents are bad. People are good and valuable because of their words and actions, and you are kind to mice and make delicious cakes and your heart is full of hopes and dreams.

“What dreams do you have?” Asked Prince Daigual.

“I would like to own a bakery,” Cinderella replied, “and have the option of seeing the people on the farms that produce the food I cook, and I would like to ride gray horses and see my mother come to the bay aboard a magnificent ship.

All of that seemed very remote. He was saddened for a moment, so he changed the subject.

“And what dreams do you have?” He asked the prince. He pondered for a moment before answering.

“I would like to have friends. I have to work every day in the kitchen of this house. That’s why they call me Cinderella, because of the ashes from the fire in the kitchen fireplace “

“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a prince because then people wouldn’t stare at me and wonder why I have so much when they don’t have enough.” I’d like to dress like farm boys because that way I could play without anyone yelling at me that I’m going to stain my satin pants. I would like to leave once in a while. I wish I had the freedom to walk alone in the hills (I had to escape my guards to find out who had lost the shoe). I would like to learn to cultivate the land and work so hard that I can sleep like a log all night, instead of sitting idly by in the castle. I would like to have friends. Nobody befriends a prince.

“I’d like to have friends,” Cinderella said. I get along well with the people in the market, who tell me about their farms, their lives and their families, but I cannot go to visit them as I please because I have to work every day in the kitchen of this house. That’s why they call me Cinderella, because of the ashes from the fire in the kitchen hearth.

“Well,” said the fairy godmother, “magic can be done without me.” Wouldn’t you two be friends?

“I could use a friend,” replied the prince timidly, but bravely. Would you like to be friends? “And he felt awful because he was afraid she would say no.”

She didn’t say no.

“Yes,” he answered, “as long as you want to too.”

And so the two stopped being people who had no friends.

Cinderella released

Author: Rebecca Solnit.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
Translation by Antonia Martín.
Lumen, 2021. 192 pages. 14.90 euros.

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