Sometimes there are no happy endings. There are just happier endings than there could be.
In the version of Cinderella I first read, the stepmother – a neighboring lady with property, who wanted the larger property of the windowed father of Cinderella – tempted Cinderella first with the idea that it would be nice to have a mother who’d care for her. And the step sisters were so nice and such good playmates to the lonely little girl.
When Cinderella suggested to her father that he should marry this nice widowed lady, her father said he would marry her when the pockets of his good (leather) hunting jacket wore through. So… Cinderella started rubbing salt inside the pockets until they wore out, then nagged her father into fulfilling his promise and thereby sealed herself into years of servitude.
But Sarah – you say – that story has a happy ending, and the party with the pumpkins and marrying the handsome prince might never have come to pass without her long years of servitude in the kitchen.
And that’s where you and I part company. I believe in miracles, mind. Seen them myself. But a miracle usually starts inside someone, with the strength to do something. It’s not a fairy godmother with a magic wand and dresses made of gold and diamond and the conveniently lost shoe, at the stroke of midnight. Those were the inventions of a French aristocratic culture that had lost its moorings in reality and forgot that most miracles are just a thumb on the scales and little things that fix otherwise out of kilter circumstances.
Could the story have had a miracle ending? Sure. Cinderella grows up, runs away from home, becomes a famous courtesan and snares the prince to such an extent that, on finding her origin is perfectly acceptable, he marries her secretly. She’d be scandalous, and whispered about but she might eventually be accepted as Queen. Or she might have found some protector, perhaps a distant relative and sued the stepmother for the restitution of her property. Or—
But it is never easy. It is never simple. And the end is not guaranteed.
Sarah, you say? Why are you so mad about a fairytale? What on Earth is wrong with you?
I’m not mad about it. Cinderella, at least the version in which Cinderella is responsible for her own doom, is probably one of my favorites. Which of us doesn’t want to believe that in the end everything will be restored to order and that no matter how bit a botch we make of things someone will swoop in and rescue us?
More importantly, though, there is another point here: at the beginning, Cinderella is the isolated geek girl, lonely and different. It is obvious from the context – and for those who know history – that her father is what used to be called “addicted to the sport” which, before your dirty minds get going, means that he likes hunting and possibly fishing (though that was considered low) and perhaps horse racing. This for someone of the nobility meant that he would be home very little.
In the version of the story I read, Cinderella was a reader, loved stories.
So, she was a lonely little girl brought up by books. An ODD.
When odds feel accepted, there is a tendency to not notice or see the knife hidden behind the lace sleeve.
What are you going on again, Sarah?
… someone brought up – here at some point (I’m too sleepy to dig through comments) – that homosexuals used to be considered a security risk. To which someone else countered there were good reasons – fair or not – for the practice, because they were blackmail risks, at a time when same sex connections were the love that dare not speak its name.
From this I mentioned in passing that excluded groups are always a risk in any system, because you’re going to get the brilliant young man or woman who can’t advance for some reason that has nothing to do with him or her: homosexuality; gender; race; handicap… whatever it turns out to be that the society considers bad.
This is why the story telling resounds as true in the movie 300 (And the comic book on which it was based.) I’m old enough to have read old history books that approved of Sparta’s mini-eugenics program, where babies showing any defect (or even babies who were judged too weak) could be exposed and left to die.
There were good reasons for this, mind. Sparta, in fact all of the Greek city-states were drawing from a limited gene pool and eliminating the ones that showed defects made it less likely that their city (which depended to an extent on warfare and pillage for survival) would end up with children with three eyes and one foot.
But the exclusion was absolute. So any child greatly deformed who nonetheless survived would have a reason to betray the city.
There used to be good reasons to exclude women from positions of power and even from education, back when contraception was unreliable and most women’s lives consumed with child rearing. Any woman who can remain perfectly rational when one of her children is in even mild trouble; any woman who thinks pregnancy brings no change to the mental capacities of the mother, is a woman who has never had children. Any woman who thinks the jokes about PMS and menopause are just sexist and have no basis in fact has her ovaries and uterus in suspension somewhere and has never experienced cycles.
And there were good reasons for excluding homosexuals and foreigners and other races: reasons that applied to that time and place, no matter how weird they seem to us.
None of which accounts for the Odd – the one of us – who falls under that exclusion: people who are either smarter than others (most of you) or adept with words (most of me – shuddup, walk a mile in my head sometime) or good at inventing new stuff… Something that sets them apart, a core of competency that makes them different. (Though I’ll point out most of us who are Odd, who don’t quite fit in, seem to be qualitatively rather than quantitatively different. It’s not that we have higher IQs – though some do – it’s that our mental processes are just… odd. It’s not that we’re more competent – we just look at things upside down and sideways and sometimes see things others don’t.)
Anyway, people who know they could go far and can’t because of something innate tend to resent the whole system and view it only as “that evil thing on my neck.”
This explains how throughout history the gifted outcasts of relatively free systems were willing – eager, in fact – to cast their lot in with those who wanted to use them for destroying the system and create a far more oppressive one.
Every totalitarian revolution in history used these – from the French revolution on. The very people who would suffer most under Soviet oppression (or Cuban) were the people who helped it come on, because they were excluded under the old system too and wanted … What Cinderella wanted. What the stepmother promised: you’ll be loved, you’ll be accepted, you’ll be normal.
We’re social apes. That is a powerful promise. Most of us would rather be poor and loved and fabulously wealthy and totally isolated.
And so they bring on their own doom, because the one thing that a totalitarian system can’t allow is the odd, the different, those who don’t fit in. And these people have already proven they are trouble.
Even those who helped ignite the fuse of these revolutions – Robspierre – end up being eaten in the end.
Much like Cinderella they usher in their servitude and there is no fairy godmother.
There never is a fairy godmother.
When one sells one’s odd, isolated but free state for servitude, and betrays those who might have offended/hurt us, but who nonetheless allow us to exist – the payment is always the same. Ask those (probably some of them my ancestors) who opened the doors of Roman citadels to the Carthaginian troops and later – much later – to the Muslim invaders.
It doesn’t matter much, by the way, if the exclusion is real, or if one was just brought up to think he’s excluded and that his rather charmed career would have been better “if society is fairer.” The result is always the same.
This is why Marxists divide people into groups and assign categories of injury and compensation to each. While you can keep one race up against the other, the straights against the gays (or vice versa) and convince men and women that their interests are different, you keep them all from realizing it’s YOUR boot on everyone’s neck. And each one will fink on all the rest to get “compensation” and “fairness” for themselves. And the result is always the same.
And there is no fairy godmother. You can come back from the fatal mistake of trusting the wolf with guarding the sheep. But it takes a miracle. It takes an internal miracle, one that makes you capable of changing yourself from inside and of taking actions to get the outcome you wish. No one is going to wave a wand. You’re not going to ride to the ball in a pumpkin. You’ve got yourself in this mess, and you’ve got to dig out.
And historically speaking, particularly for those who’ve sold their heritage to totalitarians, the chances are low. (The chances are low for those who engaged in more home-level forms of betrayal, too, it’s just that your family, your spouse, your friends are less likely to put you up against a wall and execute you. Normally.)
What do I mean by all this?
Nothing, my pretty. Go back to sleep. It’s just a fairytale.