Cinderella, like most mythic literature, is familiar, timeless, and unique.
Mythic literature refers to stories that have been handed down from generation to generation, orally and finally in print. They include proverbs, parables, wisdom stories, creation, family heritage, cultural, songs, fairy tales, and folktales.
According to Rebecca J. Lukens the term ‘traditional’ or ‘folk literature’ expresses the universality of human wishes and needs. “Folktales have been called the ‘spiritual history’ of humankind, the ‘cement of society,’ binding a culture together.”
When we can connect our stories to these characteristics and the patterns they provide as they pass down through generations, then we discover and develop essence. They bridge the past, the present and the future with possibilities.
They are the stories and songs we share around a campfire and at bedtime. So they provide a familiar safe haven whether the stories are comforting or frightening. We hear them on safe ground and that gives us the freedom to imagine and explore all kinds of situations.
Folktales, fairytales and legends hold a repository of universal shadows. This literature makes a link between internal and external ‘soul’ language and connects our personal fears and shadows to find our way through darkness. They offer a childhood’s nightlight to all ages. We may not all be afraid of the same things but we connect with the heart pounding, dry mouth sensations when we see them.
Hearing them spoken out loud, especially in community, connects us to timeless themes. We visit all the varied versions and so discover new ways to communicate with others and within ourselves.
Often folktales/parables rely on stock characters—they need to be called by the class name only—beautiful daughter, poor woodcutter; they too are familiar and predictable, which frees the listeners to concentrate on action and ideas. There’s a relationship of theme to action, and often a discovery about universal human yearnings. The storyteller could also embellish or minimize as he wished, according to his perception of the audience’s interest.
Jane Yolen refers to folklore as “constantly transforming and being transformed, putting on chameleon like, the colors of its background.” So despite the familiarity, the story is always new and unique. Cinderella might be a servant girl in medieval Europe or a rural hut near the Nile, a waitress in a hot pink restaurant, or a lonely mechanic on a space ship. There is one more common denominator though. For Cinderella there is always a new beginning at the end.
Folktales and legends were originally told in the traditional form of an anonymous storyteller. Begin your own once upon a time story.
1. Write up a paragraph opening that reflects a particular time, whether in actual history, or one that portrays a specific quality. For example, Dickens’ famous opening line for A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Or: Many circles have passed since our people lost their way.
2. Choose a line, a thought or a memory of a folktale you heard as a child and begin from there.
How Cinderella Can Help Plot Your Novel
May 28 – June 24, 2012
Marcy Weydemuller has twenty years experience writing, mentoring and teaching, both in fiction and college composition. She has a BA in History and Sociology, and an MFA in Writing, with a special focus on fantasy and poetry. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Christian Editor Network. Her freelance edit services include: substantive editing, manuscript analysis, and reader feedback.