On the third day, when her stepmother and sisters had gone away, Cinderella went again to her mother's grave and said to the tree:
Shake and quiver, little tree,
Throw gold and silver down to me.
This time the bird threw down to her a dress that was more splendid and magnificent than any she had yet had, and the slippers were of pure gold. The dress shimmered with gold and silks of the palest pink, softer than the first bud of a rose bush.
When she arrived at the festival in this dress, everyone was so astonished that they did not know what to say. The prince danced only with her, and whenever anyone else asked her to dance, he would say, "Only she is my dance partner."
When I went to design my version of Cinderella, I read the story over and over and contemplated how I wanted to retell it. For me, the issue of prejudice to skin color became a very real reason for the Stepmother's hate. I imagined Ella as the daughter of an Englishman and an woman he'd met in his travels- perhaps an Indian woman set during the time when Britain reigned over that land. When they returned to the West, she caught ill and passed. Her father remarried the Stepmother (with her blonde, English daughters), but was soon off on his travels again.
With the father gone, the stepmother and sisters would treat Cinderella as a servant, and tell the visitors she wasn't their sister- which no one would question due to the racial prejudices of the land.
To me, this helps make Grimm's wording of "silk slippers" and "foreign princess" even more purposeful to me.
I was worried when I presented my thesis that people would think I made Ella a woman of color just to garner views, or attention. I chose to portray her as such because it truly does fit with my version (and understanding) of the story- and because I feel that there need to be more stories about mixed children rising above being outsiders.
In the original tale, "the king proclaimed a festival that was to last three days", and Cinderella's mother (from beyond the grave, buried under the tree) gifted her three dresses, each more beautiful than the last.
This THIRD dress is suggestive of Summer and Happy Endings. The tree on the grave is fully in bloom, and Cinderella's heart KNOWS her dream has coming true. I picked this finally pink because it reminds me of love. The tails on her bow are rainbow, suggesting a reward at the end of a long struggle, of hope and finality. She fully faces and engages the viewer, happy and confident- as she should be. She curtsies because she is still polite (as princesses are expected to be), but the strength and defiance in her stance challenges the idea that she is a servant, or ever was.
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