Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Turkey Girl a Zuni Cinderella Story

The author of The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story
warns readers in the author's notes that the outcome of Native American Cinderella tales is not happy ending marriage reward that one comes to expect from most traditional Cinderella tales. I am not sure I agree with this, as I believe I have read other Native American versions that align more with the traditional marriage ending. In this Zuni tale of Cinderella, the focus of the lesson is much different. In many Cinderella versions, there is a time by which Cinderella must be home and she usually breaks curfew. However, in most versions the story is focused on rewarding Cinderella for her patience, hard work, and other virtues, not focused on her tardiness. This version of the story has a very different lesson to teach. This may surprise children familiar with traditional Cinderella tales. Do not expect a Prince or a wedding at the end.

The Turkey girl has a life familiar to most of the other Cinderella's I have reviewed. The orphan girl herds turkeys for wealthier people in the area, watching over and protecting them each day. As with the other Cinderella's she longs to be accepted into general society. Her job, her clothing, and the attitude of those around her keep that dream highly unlikely.

As the dance of the Sacred Bird approaches, her dreams of becoming part of society grow even larger. She longs to be more than a turkey herder. She wants to be accepted by the rest of her peers. In this story, the turkeys act as fairy godmothers cleaning her up and providing her with appropriate clothing and jewelry for the dance. The turkeys only request that she not forget them and that the proof of this will be that she returns before the Sun Father returns from his sacred places. The girl agrees and hurries off to the dance.

As with most Cinderella's, she loses track of the time and is tardy in returning. On her return, she finds the turkeys have left and her fine clothes returned to rags. The turkeys refuse to communicate with tall people any longer. There is no happy ending for the Turkey Girl. I doubt the people the turkey's belonged to would be very kind to her, although the story does not provide any information about her life after the turkeys leave.

For parents or teachers who are looking to show a different side to the story, this would be a good addition to add to your study. The focus is not on marriage or looking for Prince Charming. The story is about loyalty, keeping your word, and not looking down on those who take care of you.

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