Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Persian Cinderella

Sherry Climo has published several multicultural versions of the Cinderella tale. In The Persian Cinderella, she takes on the challenge of a tale from the Arabian nights located in Ancient Persia, today's Iran.

The Persian Cinderella has some unique features that those only familiar with the Grimm's tale may not recognize. In keeping with the cultural traditions, there is no ball and the prince does not go looking for his princess, his mother seeks out the girl who lost, not a shoe, but a diamond anklet.

This version does have some of the classic Cinderella elements. Settareh, the Persian Cinderella, does have a mean stepmother and cruel stepsisters who treat her badly. This version differs in that the father provides all the daughters with the money to attend the No Ruz, or New Year's festival. Settareh finds herself drawn into helping others and one rather odd purchase that seem to provide little opportunity to advance her chances of getting away from her family. The old woman she helps promises her that good will come from her generosity. One of her purchases ends up having a fairy in it that grants her wishes first for basic needs and then of course for a chance to attend the festival.

In keeping with the cultural traditions, this Cinderella never dances with the Prince, but she does commit a social mistake when she catches the eye of a man on the way into the festival. Of course, the reader knows that must be the Prince.

In this version, there is no shoe to fit the escaping Cinderella, but the clever mother of the groom does find Settareh and the future bride is able to provide the matching anklet. Unlike many Cinderella stories, the sisters are not thwarted at the shoe/anklet matching. These sisters are more devious and continue to pursue a means of catching the prince for their own marital prize. They steal her magic jar and ask for a means of getting rid of her forever. They are provided with a set of hairpins. As they prepare their sister's hair for her wedding, they stick the pins in her head. As the last pin is in place, their sister disappears and a dove sits in her place. I have not encountered a Cinderella tale with this twist before.

Much to the sisters’ disgust, the Prince does not turn to them for comfort, but in his distress over his lost bride, he comforts himself by taming the dove. When the bird eventually allows him to touch its head, he discovers pins stuck in its head. When he removes the last one, his bride appears. At that point, the reader is given the expected happy wedding ceremony. The jealous sisters explode and are no longer a problem for the couple.

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