Cinderella: The Ultimate Domestic Narrative

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The Cinderella story has it all; birth, death, jealous siblings, wicked stepmothers, Prince Charming, a ‘fairy tale ending’, and the curse of women the world over - domestic drudgery. Subversively the main messages in this tale are pretty clear: don’t trust your stepfamily, you apparently need a man to be truly fulfilled, and crucially, hard work without complaint makes for a good girl. And this is my point: female domesticity is at the heart of the Cinderella tale, completed with a smile because no-ones likes sulking and a woman’s work is never done.

Fairy tales were originally told to women, by women, often while they worked. The original Old Wives Tale. They provided a narrative means of making sense of the world around them and reflected the moral codes and social expectations of the day. Marina Warner writes: ‘the matter of fairy tale reflects… lived experience, with a slant towards the tribulations of women…’ [These stories are] ‘an historical source, or a fantasy of origin [that] gains credibility as a witness record of lives lived, of characters known’ (Warner xix).

The myth of happy domesticity still persists; according to social standards presented by popular media culture a woman’s fairy tale dreams of happy ever after are no less relevant today. Let us all be like Cinderella, never complaining and ever happy with a broom in our hand! Yes, the tale saves her from the wicked stepmother and her kin, but why give up on all that domestic bliss? This idea was embraced by the advertising industry back in the 1950’s when post-war policies encouraged women back into the home, but it is still very much in evidence today. Modern women are seen daily, happily dancing across our TV screens with mop in hand around a sparkling kitchen floor – what better way to sell the domestic dream than through the oldest tales of all?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStorytelling
Subtitle of host publicationCultural and Creative Transformations of Cinderella
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
ISBN (Print)9781527559431
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Fairy Tale
  • feminism and gender


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