I was watching Cinderella the other night with my nephews, and it reminded me of this part of the story that I absolutely LOVE. I was wondering one night, “If all of Cinderella’s clothes turned back into rags at the stroke of midnight, why did her shoes remain glass slippers?” So I googled it… and this is what I found…..
In Charles Perrault’s story Cinderella; or, The Glass Slipper, the dashing prince falls in love with Cinderella after she, outfitted in beautiful attire by her fairy godmother, makes an appearance at his ball. In what seems to be a glitch in the logic of the story, when Cinderella’s coach, horses, attendants and gown turn back into a pumpkin, various animals and rags at midnight, her glass slippers remain intact. The prince finds Cinderella so he can marry her by means of the glass slipper that falls from her foot as she is running away at midnight.
The slippers play a significant role in the story, not only because they are the way in which the prince finds Cinderella, but also because their permanence offers an alternative to the seemingly superficial moral. Although the story of Cinderella may seem to be one in which physical beauty and material goods are the only paths to true happiness, like the happiness that comes from marrying a prince, that is not the case. The prince does not fall in love with Cinderella for her display of transient physical beauty and riches, but for the lasting good nature symbolized in the glass slippers. The slipper is an appropriate way for the prince to find his princess because it, through its parallel with Cinderella’s character, celebrates an unbreakable internal beauty and offers a moral for a seemingly superficial story.
Cinderella’s glass slippers remain after midnight because they were a special gift from her fairy godmother. The other items that Cinderella took to the ball were merely transformed from ordinary objects, while the glass slippers were not created from something, but just given to Cinderella. In Perrault’s story, the fairy godmother asks Cinderella to bring her various household objects and animals: a pumpkin, six mice, a rat, and six lizards, which she then transforms with her wand into a coach, horses, coachman, and footmen. She then changes Cinderella’s rags into beautiful garments and “gave” her the glass slippers.
The fairy godmother transforms ordinary objects for Cinderella to allow her to get to the ball and be presentable in terms of attire. The slippers, however, were not transformed from shoes Cinderella already had. Therefore, when the clock struck midnight as Cinderella was running from the ball and her clothes returned to their state as rags and coach turned back into a pumpkin, Cinderella’s slippers remain intact because they were not touched by the fairy godmother’s wand and do not have a lower state to return to. Perrault writes that “Cinderella reached home out of breath without coach or footmen, and in shabby clothes. Nothing remained of her finery except one of her little slippers, the companion to the one that she had dropped”.
The mystery of why Cinderella’s slippers still exist after midnight is solved upon the realization that there is no reason for them to not exist. As a gift from the fairy godmother, they had no spell cast on them that would wear off at midnight, but were a real gift, intended to be kept forever. The other novelties of the transportation and attire were created on the spur of the moment only in order to allow Cinderella the chance to display her true gifts. Without the coach and horses to get her to the ball and the beautiful dress to make her presentable, Cinderella would not have been able to show off her glass slippers. The slippers, as a gift from the fairy godmother, are not under the jurisdiction of the spells cast on the other objects, and therefore remain after the critical strike of midnight.
The glass slippers, as a gift from Cinderella’s godmother, are symbolic of the gifts of Cinderella’s character. The qualities which Cinderella possesses can all be considered gifts, and since the glass slippers are a gift from the fairy godmother, they can be considered a physical manifestation of Cinderella’s beautiful disposition. Early in the story, Cinderella is described as having “gentleness and goodness without parallel” which she got “from her mother”. She is also, in later references, described as having grace, patience, and kindness.
Cinderella possesses essential qualities which set her apart from others, especially because she maintains them despite her oppression. She always manages to continue displaying the beauty of her character traits while she is being forced to be a servant in her own household. Because these beautiful characteristics which make her stand apart from other people, especially her evil stepsisters, are described as gifts from her mother, it is appropriate that Cinderella’s fairy godmother “gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the world”. These glass slippers, as a gift, are symbolic of Cinderella’s goodness, grace, and other gifts of her character. The slippers are unparalleled in their beauty, just like the unparalleled kindness which Cinderella displays throughout the story in her interactions with others.
The fact that the slippers are made out of glass also plays an important role in establishing the slippers as a lasting representation of Cinderella’s character. Glass is typically thought of as being a very breakable material, especially when put under stress and weight, but Cinderella manages to not only wear the slippers to the ball, but drop one of them and have it remain intact. This parallels the trials that Cinderella was put through in her own house and her ability to remain kind and forgiving in situations in which it seems as if she should break. Upon being provoked by one of her stepsisters who laughed at the idea of a “Cindertail” going to a ball, Perrault writes that “any other person but Cinderella would have messed up their hairdos, but she was good-natured and dressed them to perfection”. Despite the harsh treatment she receives around her house, Cinderella remains calm and shows kindness to people who do not deserve to be treated with such respect.
In the same way, Cinderella’s gifts of the glass slippers do not break during her adventures with them. She goes to the ball and dances in them, and then she even drops one of them as she is running away. The slippers survive without even so much as a tiny crack, like Cinderella’s good nature, and are unbreakable in situations which seem as if they should be able to break them. Their permanence, both after midnight and after trying events, indicates that the beauty seen in both Cinderella’s character and her slippers is an enduring quality.
Of final importance to the story is the incident in which Cinderella loses her slipper and marries the prince upon its claiming. In this chain of events, it becomes evident that the prince loves Cinderella for her character rather than the material beauty she displays at the ball. The first thing to notice is that since the slippers are a representation of the qualities which Cinderella possesses, it seems silly that it is even possible for her to lose one of them. Logically, upon dropping a slipper, she would lose half of her kindness, gentleness, patience, and other characteristics. However, she is not really losing anything, but simply allowing others to take a closer look at her essential qualities. Going to the ball gave her a chance to show off her beauty, both internal and external, which her stepmother had forced into hiding for years.
The shedding of one of the slippers as she was running away, even though it was accidental, gave the prince a chance to take a closer look at the slipper, and more specifically, take a closer look at Cinderella and her character. After she dropped her glass slipper, “the king’s son had picked it up and had done nothing but gaze upon it during the remainder of the evening” (453). He did not simply pick up a slipper, but he picked up on the beauty of Cinderella’s character. He was not enamored of a shoe, but of an unbreakable glass slipper. He was not gazing at the slipper as a slipper, but as a perfect glass form, untarnished by wear, unbroken from a fall, which was practically dropped into his hands. The slipper, as an embodiment of all the goodness in Cinderella, is just a tangible way for the prince to realize what it is that he loves about Cinderella.
Although the argument can be made that the Cinderella story is completely based on material wealth and the prince marries Cinderella because she is beautiful, the fact that he uses the slipper to find Cinderella negates the argument. It is true that Cinderella is beautiful. Not only does she possess natural beauty, but she gets all dressed up in a gown of silver and gold to go to the ball. However, the gown was only created out of the necessity to fit in. Cinderella complains to her fairy godmother that she cannot attend the ball dressed in rags, and it is only at this point that the godmother transforms her rags into a gown.
At the ball, the prince does see and realize that she is beautiful, but it is clear that what he falls in love with is not her beauty. He proclaims that he wants to marry “the lady whose foot exactly fit the slipper” (453). He does not proclaim that he wants to marry the woman dressed in the beautiful gown who came to the ball in a coach drawn by six beautiful horses, but he wants the woman who can wear a glass slipper without breaking it. He is in love with Cinderella because of the strength of her characteristics which are symbolized in the gift of the slipper, and the fact that he finds her again by way of the slipper only serves to emphasize the slipper and Cinderella’s character as the central focus of his love.
Perrault’s Cinderella story, although it contains images which may suggest that it is advocating the need for material wealth in order to find happiness, drives home its praise of character through the ever-present symbol of the glass slipper. The slipper, as a gift from Cinderella’s fairy godmother symbolizing her lasting and unbreakable good qualities, plays a crucial role in bringing Cinderella happiness. The prince’s use of the glass slipper to remember and identify Cinderella as the love of his life shows that the tale places a stronger emphasis on pervasive gifts of character than on the ephemeral displays of material riches and physical beauty.Works Cited: Perrault, Charles. “Cinderella; or, The Glass Slipper.” Zipes, Jack. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm. Yahoo
Don’t we long to be sought after because of our good, godly character? Isn’t that what we want to be considered attractive for? That is certainly what I want. I want the man that I will marry to be first and foremost enthralled with the beauty of Jesus in my heart. If that is what we want as women, we have to cultivate a heart and character worth being sought after. We have to grow in Jesus, and stay close to him. We already know he is our only worth. He is everything that is good in us, and when we recognize that we can begin to allow HIM to make us beautiful. We have something world’s better than a fairy godmother. We have the King of kings who has beauty and grace stored up and available for every one of his daughters if only we will come and ask.
I’m pretty sure that every girl wants to be loved for everything that is inside of her that is beautiful, and there is nothing more beautiful than a girl who is in love with Jesus, and lets His beauty shine in her life.
I just thought I would share this with you. Yes, it is a fairy tale, but it has a depth of meaning that rings true. True beauty that is found in Christ alone is the only beauty really worth pursuing.
Gordon B. Hinckley puts it perfectly, “Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth.”