My Top 5 Versions of Cinderella

I had so much fun looking at my favorite versions of Beauty and the Beast a few months ago, I thought I would do the same with another favorite fairy tale, Cinderella.  This one was way harder, because I have read and seen so many more versions of this tale, and some of them rank among my favorite fairy tale retellings of all time.  I managed to narrow it down to five…plus a few honorable mentions.

Cinderella (2015)

Related imageThis Disney live-action version by Kenneth Branagh, building off the classic animated version, was a pleasant surprise for me when I saw it at the drive-in theater.  First of all, it is visually gorgeous in its costumes, sets, and cinematography.  The actors are uniformly engaging; Cate Blanchett in particular is a treat as the Evil Stepmother.

It also has the most wonderful soundtrack, centered around a charming version of the folk song “Lavender’s Blue.”  I even used the soundtrack as writing music during NaNoWriMo.

But the best thing about it is the way it improves on the original Disney movie.  The original Cinderella is one of those pretty princesses without much agency, and the plot relies heavily on insta-love.  This version condenses the themes of Cinderella stories nicely with its mantra of “Have courage and be kind.”  It’s the kind of moral I would be happy to see a daughter of mine glean from a fairy tale.  We also see a much more developed relationship between Cinderella and the Prince.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Related imageI read this story for the first time about a year ago and fell in love with the creativity of this retelling.  First, it’s a sci-fi take on the story (Cinder is a cyborg), and it actually has some pretty cool biological concepts in it.  It also has a lot in common with Sailor Moon.

The romance is slow and sweet; how can you not love Prince Kai?  I also liked that there is not really one specific Fairy Godmother in this story; Cinder makes it to the ball with her own willpower (and a little help from darling Iko the android).

Cinder is only the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and as such it does not have a happy ending.  Instead, it spins nicely into the other stories without being saccharine.  I also really liked how the series goes on to feature other great female characters from fairy tales, ending in an awesome team-up.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997)

My family had recorded this on VHS when it was on TV in 1997, and I can’t remember how many times we watched it as kids.  Brandy plus Whitney Houston is just a magical 90s combination.

This version, like the previous two mentioned above, also uses the idea of the Prince and Cinderella meeting once prior to the ball, which I always thought made more sense.

The songs may not be on par with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best, but they do the job, and the cast really breathes life into them.  My personal favorite is “Ten Minutes Ago,” sung by Cinderella and the Prince at the ball.  The dancing scenes are also fun, and the actors play up the comedy throughout nicely.

Speaking of the cast, I love the racial diversity here.  We have black, white, and Asian characters, sometimes all in the same family.  Of course, the story does not address this fact in any way, but visually it’s nice to see that representation.

Ever After

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Before Disney’s big screen, live action version a few years ago, the Cinderella movie crown was unquestionably held by Ever After, which is apparently appropriately subtitled “A Cinderella Story.”  This version grounds itself in real life by taking place in Renaissance France, with a framing story about the Grimm Brothers collecting European fairy tales.

Our main character Danielle has dreams, but she also has nerve and ambition.  She is one of the boldest Cinderellas I can think of, pretending to be a courtier as well as standing up to gypsies.  She is also very well-read thanks to her father, being able to quote Utopia.  I think my favorite part of this version is that Leonardo da Vinci serves the role of fairy godmother in helping Danielle get to the ball.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Image result for ella enchantedFor me, this is the book that started my entire love of fairy tale retellings.  I still re-read it, even now, most often going back to my favorite part: the letters that Char and Ella write to each other while he is away in Ayortha.

In this version, Ella is not obedient of her own accord; no, she has been cursed to be obedient (the fairy who bestowed this trait called it a gift!).  Ella must do anything that anyone commands her to do.  This, of course, nearly ruins her life, and the lives of her friends, so she sets out to break her curse and is able to overcome it in the end.  The story actually has a lot to say about autonomy and free will, which is pretty deep stuff for a children’s book; I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so beloved.

Even as it adds to the original tale, it stays close to its origins, using devices like Ella’s fairy godmother, the glass slippers, pumpkin carriage, and three nights of balls.  Plus, this book has everything you could want from a children’s fairy tale: magic curses, fantasy creatures like fairies, elves, ogres, and centaurs, made-up languages, and an adorable main couple.

There is also a movie version of Ella Enchanted, starring Anne Hathaway, that is delightful, but aside from the basic premise does not have that much in common with the novel.

I couldn’t let it go with just five this time, so here are some Honorable Mentions:

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Image result for princess of glassThis story is the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, itself a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”  The main character is Princess Poppy of Westfalin, who is just awesome, with so much humor and spunk.  But she is not really the Cinderella character; though Poppy does stand in for her once, the real Cinderella, Eleanora, is a side character and the Cinderella story is really more of a side plot.  I liked that it is a bit darker; for example, the fairy godmother is not good, and the molten glass is poured on the girls’ feet to make the slippers.

Another Cinderella Story

I will be honest: this is objectively not a great movie.  But I just love it anyways!  I guess I am just a sucker for dance movies.  Selena Gomez stars as an aspiring dancer who falls for a famous teen pop star after they dance together incognito.  The dance numbers are awesome, and the songs are stupidly catchy.  And how can you not love Jane Lynch?  She is hilarious as a has-been pop star in the evil stepmother role.  I like it way better than the first movie in the series with Hilary Duff, and the two movies after it get progressively worse.

Cinderella (Prokofiev)

Did you know there is a ballet version of Cinderella?  I danced in it when I was younger, as a “court lady,” aka part of the corps de ballet.  (My costume was a long maroon dress…maroon is a terrible color for redheads.)  The score by Prokofiev is very nice, though not as memorable as, say, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.  There are several versions of choreography (I don’t know which my company did), but the story is very classic.

What is your favorite version of Cinderella?  One of these, or a similar story from another culture?

 

 

The Lunar Chronicles/Sailor Senshi team

When I started reading Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, I knew that it was a sci-fi take on the Cinderella tale.  What I did not know was that it was also partly inspired by Sailor Moon!

I can’t say that I’m as obsessed with Sailor Moon as other girls my age (including Meyer!) because I was never able to watch it when it was first broadcast in the US.  But I’ve since read the manga and seen a few episodes of the dub and Sailor Moon Crystal.  It’s definitely a classic shoujo manga for a reason.

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As the Lunar Chronicles series progresses, Cinder picks up companions on her quest, eventually assembling a team that reminded me greatly of the Sailor Scouts, or Senshi: four girls all with Lunar heritage (and one very excitable android).  As I was reading, I had a lot of fun pairing up characters with the Sailor Senshi that they seemed similar to.

Mild spoilers ahead for all the Lunar Chronicles books.

Cinder — Sailor Moon

Image result for sailor moonOur protagonist Cinder is clearly the Sailor Moon equivalent of this story.  She is the heir to the Lunar kingdom, but has ended up on Earth (specifically in Asia) with no memory of her royal past.  Even her birth name Selene sounds similar to Sailor Moon’s other identities Princess Serenity and Serena (used instead of Usagi the Sailor Moon dub). (All these names have meanings related to the moon).

In terms of personality and looks, Cinder and Usagi don’t have too much in common, though sometimes Cinder’s ill-fitting prosthetics can make her as clumsy as Usagi.  (Meyer has actually said that Cinder is more like her favorite, Sailor Jupiter:tough on the outside, but soft and sensitive on the inside.”)

Random side note: I actually tend to think of Cinder looking like Princess Garnet from Final Fantasy IX.  I think it’s the gloves ~_^

Image result for ffix princess garnet

 

Scarlet — Sailor Mars

Image result for sailor marsScarlet was the next easiest to pin down; she is Sailor Mars through and through.  Her signature color, red, aligns perfectly with both Rei and the Martian planet that inspired her.  Sailor Mars wields fire, and as I mentioned in my review post, the bold and brash Scarlet fits the “fiery redhead” mold perfectly.  (Though I do think Scarlet’s physicality is also a bit like Sailor Jupiter.)

Scarlet is also the oldest of the group at 18, and her womanly independence and maturity reminds me a lot of Rei.  They both have limited contact with their parents, instead living with a grandparent.  They also share an affinity for shooting; Scarlet carries a gun her grandmother gave her, and Rei is an archer, which even features in some of her Sailor Mars attacks.

Rei is the second of the Sailor Senshi to be discovered by Sailor Moon; Scarlet is the second of the Lunar team that Cinder meets (Cress is the first, though only via vid link).

Cress — Sailors Mercury and Venus

Image result for sailor mercuryTo me, Cress is a mash-up of Sailor Mercury with a little bit of Venus thrown in.  As I said above, she is the first of the team to meet Cinder, and her geekiness with computer hacking skills, plus the way she experiences the real world through media, are very much like the shy, bookish Ami.

But there’s also another side to Cress shown in her effervescent crush on Thorne that reminds me of Minako, aka Sailor Venus, Guardian of Love and Beauty.  She loves to sing, and I can see her dreaming of being a J-pop idol, same as Minako. Venus actually has several attacks using the word “Crescent,” which is part of Cress’s full name Crescent Moon.  And the orange tutu that Cress wears to infiltrate the palace inImage result for sailor venus Winter gave me a little giggle as I recalled Venus’s orange skirt.

A few more characteristics also indicate Ami and Minako.  Cress’s hair starts off being very long and blonde (like Minako’s) but then is cut off short (like Ami’s).  Also, Cress enjoys video games and is very good at them from all her time spent playing them alone in her satellite.  Minako trains to be Sailor V by playing a video game of the same name, and Ami is later shown to be very proficient at the Sailor V game.  (Minako was actually already active as Sailor V before Sailor Moon even came along, and Cress had likewise being carrying on her surveillance and searching for Princess Selene well before Cinder knew her true identity.)

Winter — Sailor Saturn (with a little Pluto)

Image result for sailor saturnWinter’s beauty should probably qualify her as Sailor Venus, but the “other-ness” of her personality really stuck me as belonging to the Outer Senshi.  Specifically, she reminds me of Sailor Saturn, who has trouble getting close to any of her classmates because of her seizure-like episodes.  Winter does not have many close friends, because unlike most Lunars she does not use her powers and thus suffers from “Lunar sickness,” where she has periods of intense, crippling hallucinations.

Hotaru is the youngest of the Senshi, which pairs well with Winter’s child-like innocence, bordering on naïveté.  She also occasionally demonstrates healing powers, and Winter seems like she has a similar tendency: she cares for Scarlet during her captivity on Luna and sneaks her medicine disguised in apple candies.

Winter is only member of the group to have spent her entire life on Luna, which reminded me a bit of Sailor Pluto, who is kept stationed guarding the Space-Time Door.  And like Winter, Pluto is also depicted as having the darkest skin of the group.

Iko — Luna/Chibiusa

luna_2I almost stopped with the Lunar girls, but Iko is just as important a member of the team!

At first I thought of Iko as being like Luna the cat because she lives with Cinder and acts as her assistant in the repair shop.  She’s also small and has a very human-like personality despite being an android.  Though she didn’t always know Cinder’s true identity, I think she encourages Cinder to accept her destiny (she certainly wants her to go to the ball).

After Iko goes through some transformations, first as a ship’s AI and then getting anImage result for chibi moon humanoid body, I started to re-evaluate her role.  It was actually her continuing lighthearted crush on Kai that sealed my opinion of her as Chibiusa, the future daughter of Usagi and Mamoru, who appears during the second story arc of Sailor Moon.  Chibiusa and Usagi develop a relationship almost like sisters even as Chibiusa constantly tries to steal Mamoru’s attention away from Usagi.  Cinder and Iko are similarly close, and even though Cinder did not originally build Iko, she did help repair her (and continues to do so throughout) such that Cinder seems to have a bit of a creator/parent role.  Plus, Iko enjoys glomping on everyone and her android body sports an unconventional, brightly-colored hairstyle.

What do you guys think?  Do you agree with my interpretations, or did you see certain characters as different Senshi?

Cinder and the Lunar Chronicles (Review)

Being such a huge fan of fairy tale re-tellings, how could I have waited so long to read Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter?  I really don’t know!  The only advantage is that now I got to read them all straight through!  Rating: 5/5 stars

lunar-chronicles

Each book works really well as an individual fairy tale while building on the previous books for an overarching plotline.  (In case it wasn’t obvious: Cinder→ Cinderella, Scarlet→ Little Red Riding Hood, Cress→ Rapunzel, Winter→ Snow White)

Cinder is a very strong start to the series.  I knew Cinder was a sci-fi take on Cinderella, even a little future-tech with cyborgs, etc.  But I didn’t know that it also draws heavily from Sailor Moon!

Image result for excited usagi

More on the Sailor Moon aspects in a later post, but let’s just say I was excited like Usagi here when I noticed the connection.

Cinder hit a lot of the same beats as my WIP Ash and Team, which is also a Cinderella-type story, but I wasn’t disheartened by that fact.  I was completely inspired, my mind opened to what my story could be.  I actually dreamed up a new scene for my story the day after reading Cinder.  (Even more inspiring: Cinder, Scarlet and Cress all began their lives as NaNoWriMo projects!  I’ll try to keep that in mind as I’m writing this month.)

I really liked that the ending of Cinder wasn’t saccharine; it actually ends on kind of a down note as it leads into the rest of the series.  Scarlet picks up right where Cinder leaves off; it can be tricky to switch to new main characters in the middle of a series, but each successive book does a great job splitting the focus between new and old characters (although Winter in particular gets a little bloated as a result).  And being a redhead myself, I was glad to see Scarlet as such a great embodiment of the “fiery redhead” trope (even though I am nothing like this!).

This wouldn’t be a true Jedi by Knight review unless I critique the biological concepts in these books–but don’t worry, these get pretty good marks for YA sci-fi.  For some reason, plagues are all the rage in YA dystopias right now (Matched, Maze Runner, Legend, etc.), and the Lunar Chronicles follows suit with the virulent disease letumosis (and a lot of unethical scientists to boot).  This plague has some interesting symptoms (rashes, blue fingertips) and does mutate over the course of the books.

Overall I didn’t have much issue with the biology except for a bit of confusion in Winter on the difference between vaccines (a preventative measure, typically for viruses) and antidotes (a cure for either symptoms or the underlying pathogen of a disease).  The vials of antidote that Cinder finds are incorrectly labeled as “vaccines,” and additionally they are stored at room temperature while vaccines are typically refrigerated or frozen.

One particular concept from Cress that I really liked was the isolation of hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow for use in regenerative therapy.  This is actually something we do regularly in my lab!  (We’re focused on cardiac disease, though.)  Though it might not really be the first choice for treatment in this case, I thought it was a really creative way to make some actual science work with the fairy tale story line.  It’s not every day YA sci-fi correctly drops words like “hematopoietic!”

In short, these books really succeed at all aspects of sci-fi, fairy tales, and light YA romance.  Even the ending was a nice surprise for me because it didn’t quite end like I expected.  I’m currently working through Stars Above, a collection of short stories from this universe, and Fairest, the story of the Evil Queen Levana which is kind of Book 3.5 in the series.

stars-above-fairest