Reading up on Cinderella, the history of the tale, variations of it, interpretations of it, and the commentary by scholars and writers of various backgrounds is such a mixed bag! I have spotted something very important in the tale that virtually nobody else is covering, but, there is much more to talk about regarding this tale that I won't be able to cover in the fairy tales series, so we'll explore some of it here.
Over several years of studying indigenous European belief (paganism, mythology), and then studying the folk tradition (folklore, folk customs, holiday traditions, witch trial records), I began to realize that the idea that paganism died out after conversion to Christianity was simply preposterous. Native European spirituality remained an incredibly powerful force in the consciousness of the European people well into the modern era.
The discipline of folklore was founded during an era that was grappling with many of the same issues we are facing today. Obviously the lore itself has roots much older. But, prior to the Romantic Era, scholars and "civilized society" simply weren't paying attention.
The Romantic Era started in Europe as a pushback against Industrialization. The prior Scientific Revolution had shifted Western thought toward a more "rational" worldview; one that rejected the "superstition" found among the countryfolk. There were clear benefits and advancements in the birth of science and medicine, but one downside was the dismissal of age-old tradition and belief.
There is an important side to fairy tales which is often overlooked. Although I work within the European paradigm, what I will explore here is relevant to ALL cultures, as fairy tales exist universally among all people worldwide.
True fairy tales, not stories written solely by one author, but rather stories that were developed collectively over generations among language groups and cultures, have encoded in them important keys to understanding our own psyches.
Fairy tales have been written off as simple stories for children. And, while children do become absorbed in the tales of the land of Faerie, these stories have layers of deep meaning that are applicable to people of all ages. We tend to think of "mythology" as somehow a higher status of literature than fairy tales. Maybe that's due to the conception of their antiquity, and the complex worlds with pantheons that represent a cast of characters whose exploits we can follow.
But, what we don't realize is that fairy tales exist within the lexicon of myth. Many fairy tales have origins that extend back into the murky haze of pre-history. Others build off of patterns and influences from those very ancient tales, and still others were formed during eras when indigenous spirituality was suppressed by the authorities, and so elements of the old religion were preserved in coded form.
By peeling back the layers, we can find deep spiritual insight and guidance in fairy tales that can give us comfort, direction, hope, and other psychological-emotional support.