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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Self Help For Cinderella?

When I first saw the title, I had imagined that Fairy Godmothers of the Four Directions was a modern re-visioning of the Cinderella fairy tale.  I hoped it would be an original approach to Cinderella.  I’m not a big fan of the Disney version.   When I began to read it, I realized that it’s intended as a self-help book in fairy tale format.   I  purchased this book on Amazon and reviewed it for Bookplex.   


My favorite scene in this book was Cinderella giving a tongue lashing to a troll.  I also enjoyed the fact that he’s different from other trolls that I’ve encountered in books. 

For me, the trouble is that the book’s conceptualization of Cinderella is not new.   In the fairy tale, Cinderella is a go with the flow type.   She lets life happen to her.  She also never has any goal beyond marrying The Prince.   In this book, Cinderella isn’t any more self-directed.  Cinderella’s love for The Prince is unconditional.   She embarks on the path of the four godmothers because The Prince thinks she should.   She’s all about marrying The Prince. 

 The Prince seems to have a very conditional love.  Cinderella is like the Greek myth of Galatea to him.  Galatea is a statue who is molded by the sculptor Pygmalion into his ideal woman.   The Prince turns Cinderella over to the godmothers to be re-molded.  He wants a wife made to order.  

 While Cinderella learns many important skills through the fairy godmothers, she remains fixated on that one goal.  She wants to meet The Prince’s expectations for a wife.  If you look at Fairy Godmothers of the Four Directions from a narrative perspective, it only sounds helpful to someone who wants to marry at all costs.  The message appears to be that you’ll have many challenges in becoming the wife your husband wants, but it will be worth it. 

 Yet if you look at this book from a more metaphorical perspective, Cinderella’s concern with making the Kingdom stronger could be addressed to people who are searching for a new job.   Any organization would be pleased to employ someone who has done some thinking about how to strengthen it.  So this book could conceivably be useful to more than one type of reader.
Unfortunately, there were two continuity errors in which Morse contradicted something that she had written.  In one case, the author forgot that Cinderella was no longer where she had been earlier in the scene.  Another discontinuity involved Cinderella draining all her personal power, but she was still able to “gather a vortex of power in her belly” soon after that.  Continuity errors are more annoying to me than proofreading errors. 

Even more problematic was a magical act that makes no sense if you know the definition of the word “void”.   This indicates to me that Morse doesn’t always think through her concepts.

Despite these problems, I want to make clear that I did enjoy parts of this book. I have never identified with Cinderella, so I’m not the most ideal reader for Fairy Godmothers of the Four Directions.  On the other hand, I acknowledge that Jennifer Morse did occasionally show me new ways to think about certain issues that I hadn’t previously considered.


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