Friday, March 28, 2008

Cultural Research on Cinderella Stories

The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition

Setting: Lublin, Poland

Characters: Reyzeleh (the eldest daughter), Khaveleh (the middle daughter), Mireleh (the youngest daughter), the rabbi, the mother, the stranger, Rabbi Yitskhok ben Levi, Rabbi Yitshok's wife, and Rabbi Yitshok's son. The characters were a little different than the traditional Cinderella story in that the other sisters weren't her step sisters and they along with her mother weren't out to get her. In this story the father sends Mireleh away from their home after she tells him that she loves him the way meat loves salt. Also the 'fairy godmother' was actually the Prophet Elijah which is very important in the Jewish culture. He helped to lead the Jewish people away from worshiping different gods. He also is special in that he never died, but was taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire and will come again at the time of the Messiah.

Cultural Markers: As I mentioned with the characters, Elijah is an important prophet in the Jewish culture and it is fitting that he would come to the aid of Mireleh so that she would wander away from her religion after being cast out of her home. Mireleh and Rabbi Yitskhok's son's wedding is significant as well. The ceremony takes place under a chuppah, or huppah, which is the marriage canopy. It symbolizes the home that is to be built and shared by the couple. It is also open on all four sides as a symbol of hospitality. The bride and groom wear no jewelry under the chuppah because their commitment to each other is based on who they are, not on material possessions. The breaking of the glass is also significant. It is an expression of the sadness at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, identifying the couple with the spiritual destiny of the Jewish people. The breaking of the glass symbolizes the end of the ceremony, after which people give shouts of "Mazel Tov" along with a reception from the guests as the couple leaves the chuppah together. The song at the end of the book, Mazel Tov is used at the end of the wedding. The actual title of the song is a Hebrew and Yiddish greeting meaning 'congratulations' or 'may God be with you'.

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella

Setting: Island in the Caribbean Sea

Characters: Narrator (a washerwoman & Cendrillon's godmother), Cendrillon's mother, Cendrillon, Monsieur (Cendrillon's father), Madame Prospèrine (the woman Monsieur remarried), and Vitaline (Monsier & Madame's daughter). This take on Cinderella is told from the perspective of the 'fairy godmother'. Cendrillon's mother passes away soon after she was born and her father did re-marry. The woman he married did not have any daughters, but together they had their own daughter, Vitaline. Madame laughed Cendrillon because of her 'peasant's way of speaking' and her worn clothing, while she was dressed in satin and velvet (her grandfather had come from France). Madame worked Cendrillon like a servant girl, obviously favoring her own daughter. It is similar to the traditional Cinderella in that she goes to a ball and meets a boy that is like a prince.

Cultural Markers: The items used by the godmother for the coach, horses, etc. for Cendrillon to get to the ball are plants/animals specific to the region. She uses fruit à pain (breadfruit) for the coach to ride in, six agoutis (similar to a guinea pig) for the horses, five brown field lizards became the footmen, and a manicou as the coachman. The French Creole language also stuck out as a culturally specific aspect of the book. The colonization of the Caribbean is where the influence came from. French is the official language of Haiti as well as other islands in the Caribbean. French is spoken more widely by the upper class, while Haitian Creole is more widely spoken. In the back of the book the author included a glossary of the words and phrases he used from the French Creole language.

I POEM for Two Voices
(click Cinderella!)

1 comment:

Dr. Frye said...

Wow Dani! I LOVE the research you incorporated into this post. I especially enjoyed viewing the Jewish traditions (wedding) that you posted. I believe you truly see the benefits of reading Cinderella stories with children to explore other cultures and countries. Thank you for your posts. I am pleased that you enjoyed these two Cinderella variants!