Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Ask any child about Cinderella and you are bound to get the same set of answers; fairy godmothers, wicked step mothers, magic pumpkins, a glass slipper, and singing mice. Basically they will tell you the Disney version of the story because that is what they know. It is the story we all know but it is not the only story.

The current incarnation on Cinderella, with her fairy godmother and singing mice, is only the latest in a very long line of Cinderella tales. Some quick research tells me that if you look you can find evidence of the Cinderella story as far back as 860 China. There are popular versions of the tale in France Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre, Italy, Cenerentola, and Germany, Aschenputtel. 

Of course there is the Grimm's version (which that version was originally published by Charles Perrault in 1697) which is the most popular version of the tale until Disney threw those damn singing mice into the mix in 1950. Of course the Grimm version was full of the Stepmother mutilating her daughters in an effort to fool the prince. Apparently Walt Disney felt that helpful singing rodents were more appropriate for children than a mother taking a carving knife to her children's feet in the name of familial advancement.

Surely this is not the last change this tale will see. When my grandchildren or great grandchildren are wee tots Cinderella might not be associated with magic pumpkins and glass slippers and all things Disney, but may instead have reverted back to some of its more violent Grimm roots or changed into something I can not even fathom. There is no way to know where it will go.

That is the beauty of a story. Stories are not stagnant things. Stories are not created in one fashion only to remain frozen as such forever. They are not unchangeable entities that we will only know in that one instance forever. They are not static.

Stories have a life of their own. They change and grow and evolve with time. A story that endures is a story that evolves. Every few generations someone will take it and reimagine the tale to make it relevant to a new generation or even to a new culture. A stories theme or moral can be enduring but in order to continue to seem relevant it has to evolve.

In the same vein a story must change as the platform changes. A story that was passed on through the oral tradition will become different once written down. Without that element of performance that comes from being told a story you have to embellish in areas you did not before. Once the story is finally on the page it is not the same story that was once told. With each additional writing of the story the voice of the new author will shine through and much like in the oral tradition it will change.

The same goes from moving from the page to stage or film. Certain elements that are written do not translate into something entertaining on screen. Things are lost, things are added, and things are changed. There will never be a film that is exactly the book, it is impossible. There are just too many elements, and things must be sacrificed. Of course what one person feels is an acceptable sacrifice will always be unacceptable to another.

Still no matter what format you are moving the story too the story should at its core remain. The voice may change and things may look different, but when you peel it down to its core you will find that story again. It just looks a little different now.

This is not to say that all evolutions of a story are good ones. Sometimes you lose the story in the evolution. Sometimes the execution just is not very good. Sometimes you just don't hit the mark. This is bound to happen occasionally. When it does we just revert back to an older incarnation and await the next push forward to occur.

So the next time you find yourself up in arms about something not being exactly as it once was, remember that not only does nothing stay the same, nothing should stay the same. Everything grows and changes and that is a good thing. After all, without change we may still be chopping off toes instead of singing with vermin.

No comments:

Post a Comment