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This general abhorrence of gender roll reversal is common to much folk mythology, and Mills notes that the few exceptions -- wherein a gender roll reversal is cast in a favorable light -- exclusively involve females somehow taking on male aspects.
Yet another element may be examined in the Afghani version which is endemic to a wide range of Cinderella tales. The magical help herein comes through a cow which is inhabited by the spirit of the dead true-mother: "Later on, the father found a yellow cow in his stable, 'In place of the murdered mother,'" (Mills, 1978). The general formula found the world-wide is that the evil stepmother concocts a plan to kill the inhabited animal and consume it. Cinderella herself, being filially loyal, refuses to eat of the animal and instead gathers its bones and venerates them, by which means she receives supernatural aid from her late mother's spirit. Yet the vehicle of the true-mother's inhabitation need not be a cow, or even an animal. In a popular Chinese version, "Yeh-Shen," the vehicle is a fish; in a well-known Russian variant, "The Beautiful Wassilissa," the vehicle is a toy-bear imparted to the child by the mother before her death.
A more substantial departure from the core tale is witnessed in Native American folklore, like a tale of the Algonquin tribe called "The Hidden-One"; yet the essential elements remain in place. The Cinderella character -- Little Scarface -- is ill treated and her "rough clothing" are scars inflicted on her by her sister. The magical help comes through the prince's sister in this case who -- rather than the fairy godmother's provision of dresses and carriages for Cinderella -- washes Little Scarface with a salve that removes her scars, lengthens her hair, and makes her beautiful. The proof of identity is similar to that found in the Javanese tale, wherein moral purity is the test.
Perhaps one of the most well-disguised versions of the tale was written by the Bard of Avignon himself; King Lear is widely recognized to have at core the Cinderella tale, if re-told from the perspective of the father. The key element here is the Love Like Salt judgment, tale type 923 according to Aarne-Thompson, in which at the play's beginning, when asked how much they love their father, each of Lear's daughters respond but Cordelia responds poorest of all:
Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less (Shakespeare).
Element VI as described by Aarne-Thompson (and recounted above from Ramanujan) is perhaps the rarest of the core elements of tale 510, yet still potent enough to require reading from the perspective of the Cinderella complex of folklore wherever it is encountered.
Finally it may be noted that classical counterparts of Cinderella are also recognizable. Persephone has the cyclical quality of Cinderella, who puts on bright, beautiful, sun-like raiment for a time, but for a time always returns to hiding in her drab, winter-raiment. Persephone's ritual animal was the pig, and certain Mediterranean versions of the tale name Cinderella's rough clothing specifically to be a pig hide. Psyche in her romance of Cupid also has certain qualities which link her to Cinderella. There is the inverted love story -- woman seeks the lover and not vice versa -- as well as the evil mother, in this case the lover's mother, attempting to prevent the romance. Also, Psyche's travails, specifically the sorting of grain and other comestibles, are common to many versions of the Cinderella story.
Today's popular versions of the Cinderella tale -- Disney's in specific -- recast this drama as a sort of coming-of-age for an oppressed young woman. It is notable though, that Cinderella does not change in character throughout the tale; there is no coming of age, so much as a realignment of lucky stars. Yet neither cloaks of swine-hide, nor animated musical numbers, nor a thousand permutations of the same tale told in as many societies can change truth, but only veil it.
1. Basile, Giambattista. "The Cat Cinderella." The Pentamerone of Giambattista Basile. Ed. N.M. Penzer. London: John Lane, 1932. 56-63. Print.
2. Perrault, Charles. "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper." The Blue Fairy Book. Ed. Andrew Lang. New York: Random House, 1959. 96-104. Print.
3. Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. "Aschenputtel (Ash Girl)." The Grimms' German Folk Tales. Trans. Francis P. Magoun, Jr. And Alexander H. Krappe. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1960. 86-92. Print.
4. Jameson, R.D. "Cinderella in China." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 71-97. Print.
5. Rooth, Anna Birgitta "Tradition Areas in Eurasia." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 129-147. Print.
6. Bascom, William "Cinderella in Africa." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 148-168. Print.
7. Danandjaja, James "A Javanese Cinderella Tale and its Pedagogical Value." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 169-180. Print.
8. Mills, Margaret A. "A Cinderella Variant in the Context of a Muslim Women's Ritual." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 180-192. Print.
9. Franz, Marie Louise von "The Beautiful Wassilissa." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 200-218. Print.
10. Ramanujan, A.K. "Hanchi: A Kannada Cinderella." Cinderella: A Casebook. ed. Alan Dundes. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. 259-275. Print.
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