Cinderella’s fairy godmother, being a creature of magic as well as Cinderella’s elder, probably could have done a lot better at improving the poor girl’s life. Sure, she took a young woman covered in ashes from rags to riches (quite literally) in just a few nights, but with the kind of power the woman exhibits, she could have done so much more! Why not contrive to make Cinderella empress of the realm? Why not offer her a whole host of suitors? Why not magic her up a unicorn or something? Come on, Fairy Godmother, we both know you could do better!
Okay okay, I guess if you nitpick enough, you can find fault with any tale, but so much of Charles Perrault’s version of the Cinderella story (used here for the comics as well as for the famous Disney film) just doesn’t quite make sense. Even setting aside the whole prince and princess thing that has been such a long running staple of fairy tales created before women had any real rights, it’s clear that this Godmother person just wasn’t living up to her potential. I mean, she just sat there for years while her godchild was verbally and physically abused by her family members! Okay, so she may not have thought she could do better than setting Cinderella up with some prince, I get that, but why not do it a lot earlier?! You’re a fairy, damn it!
And making the poor girl come home at midnight? That just adds insult to injury, madame! What party really gets going before midnight?
Everything starts to make a little bit more sense when you consider all the precursors to Perrault’s version of the tale. Cinderella has been told and retold in countless ways in countless nations from fairly distant past to the current day. In fact, one of the earliest known versions of the story was written down in China in 900 CE, and was probably shared orally for some time before that! Interestingly, the general motif of a woman losing a shoe only to have it lead to a happy marriage with royalty is much much older than that, probably originating in Ancient Greece or even earlier, though tales of that nature don’t really contain the other details usually seen in the Cinderella story.
In the version from China, the Cinderella character is helped not by a fairy godmother, but rather by the spirit of a dead fish that had been her friend in life. It is implied in the story that this fish was, in fact, her dead mother. While this particular element is different, the rest is pretty spot on and it is this story that ended up giving birth to many other versions in different nations across Europe and Asia. Not until Perrault did a fairy godmother get involved, which probably explains why things seem a little bit weird in his version.
Of course, if we simply avoid nitpicking too much and just take the story as it is, it’s a short but enjoyable read with some very charming concepts.
But I guess then we wouldn’t have any comics, now would we?