What inspired you to write a dark retelling of Cinderella?
The most common reaction to people hearing my title is: “Oh! Huh. What on earth possessed you to put those two things together?!”
To which I like to respond by grinning gleefully, rubbing my hands together, and possibly cackling like Cinderella’s evil stepmother… I joke, I joke! The truth is that several elements came together at once to plant the idea in my head, though it was a slow burn over about a year to get to that point.
One year at Christmas, a family member returned from a trip to England and gifted me a copy of Magic in the Middle Ages, a history text written by Northwestern University professor Richard Kieckhefer. I read the entire thing (because I love history!) but there was one chapter in particular that I found absolutely fascinating. It was about the dark, underground history of the Catholic clergy who would give their sermons by day, but who created their own magic texts and performed summoning rituals by night. The dichotomy was absolutely fascinating—and disturbing—and so I searched for more information about this strange and relatively obscure bit of Medieval history.
That brought me to a text by the same professor, called Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century. Inside this text is a translation of a manuscript that is quite literally a grimoire of magical rituals for summoning spirits and other awful things, and it is written in Latin and German.
In addition to reading these texts, one day I was thinking about fairy tales (I don’t remember why, don’t we all just thinking about stories sometimes?) and wishing that the women in these old stories had a chance to fight back against their circumstances, rather than have to sit around and wait to be rescued by a prince or a fairy godmother. I remember being thoroughly miffed on Cinderella’s behalf, thinking about what would have become of her if there’d been no fairy godmother. If she’d had to rescue herself.
One of the original Cinderella stories comes from Germany (“Aschenputtel” by the Brothers Grimm) and so somehow, my brain put these two things together… and Cinderella was finally allowed to fight back. There is no fairy godmother. There’s no one coming to rescue her. Cinderella has to save herself… and it’s not a sparkly adventure with adorable, talking mice. *dun dun dunnnn*
And that’s how it all came together!
*~~About the Author~~*
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