Everyone thinks Cinderella is about ultimate justice for the victimized. They know she won the prince, and the evil stepmother and stepsisters were put in their place. But what happened to the fairy godmother muddies the picture of fairness. Here is a missing piece of the tale.
On the day before the prince’s ball, Fairy Godmother was up to her elbows in sudsy water. She had no clean wands on hand. On her salary she couldn’t afford an electric wand-washer that would leave the starry tips spotless and sparkling. Based on seniority, management should have given her one, but the boss used them as incentives for new recruits.
She was a team player: made no complaints, gave no excuses, and accomplished tasks on schedule. What was her reward? Her beneficiaries got all the good things in life without putting forth any effort. She toiled endlessly with no appreciation. When she was fairly new at the job she tried to organize a union, since management didn’t seem to notice or base decisions on merit. Others refused to support her. She resigned herself to a Pollyanna perspective. She was lucky to have a job. She couldn’t fight her destiny. Or was it her DNA that trapped her? It didn’t really matter whether a force field of fate or commanding chemicals carried out some prearranged plan for her. She was born to work.
Many believe that fairies can conjure up whatever they want whenever they want it. Magic isn’t like that though. Fairy Godmother’s powers worked within limits and according to strictly defined procedures. The day of the ball she looked at her checklist of required items: magic wand, fairy dust, one pumpkin, six mice, one rat, six lizards, and band aids in case of blisters from new shoes. Who scheduled this assignment for October 31? All the best pumpkins were already converted into jack-o-lanterns. Six horses and six footmen seemed excessive for one small maiden. Nevertheless, Fairy Godmother did her best to round up what the recipe required.
Ever hopeful, she headed for the pumpkin patch. The ground was as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. When a horseman approached at a fast and furious pace she thought it might be her lucky day. He carried a pumpkin under his arm. She meant to persuade him to trade it for the Wizard of Oz’s used crystal ball. But his horse screeched to a halt, reared up, and swerved sharply to the left. To avoid flying out of the saddle the horseman grabbed its cantle with both hands, dropping the pumpkin. Fairy Godmother’s stomach somersaulted as she looked at her clean, shiny wand. Its gleam might have caused the charger to bolt.
“Wait,” she called to the horseman. But he had already disappeared into a distant darkness.
Fairy Godmother approached the dropped pumpkin, which looked in worse shape than Humpty Dumpty after the fall. A wave of her wand could have changed it into a coach, but one in need of massive repairs to its cracked shell. All the body shop guys were home preparing to celebrate the holiday with their little trick-or-treaters. In her desperation she decided to make do with a gourd from a neighboring field. Her intentions were good, and the desired result for Cinderella was achieved. Nevertheless, she felt she had to falsify her report to conceal her indiscretion.
After such an unsettling compromise of her standards, Fairy Godmother suffered a mixture of guilt and resentment. She turned to spirits to ease her churlishness. Under the influence of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, she let her secret slip. When the story got to management, Fairy Godmother was summarily dismissed. The report said she was fired for cause, not eligible for unemployment compensation.
Disconsolate she went to her favorite local coffee shop to peruse the classifieds. In her search for gainful employment she heard many excuses for not hiring her: you’re overqualified, you may not have the strength and stamina we need, you don’t have the skills we’re looking for. Finally she received an offer for a cinder maid’s position, which had been vacated when the former occupant married and moved away. Many had turned down the job when they discovered the harsh working conditions. Fairy Godmother, desperate for work, accepted the job, counting on her determination, endurance, and resourcefulness to see her through until something better might come along.
Diane Farone, a lifelong fan of fairy tales and other truth-rendering fiction, has been happy to turn her writing efforts from academic publications in the publish or perish world of academia to writing for fun in her retirement. Ever the student, she has been studying creative writing through the Writers Studio.