There are so many different versions of the Cinderella story from a multitude of cultures and Becky, over at Kid World Citizen, has asked a whole bunch of bloggers to get together to review some of these stories. I was excited to participate and chose The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna and Soula Mitakidou, or more accurately it chose me. I didn’t think I would be able to get a book in time and this version was available as a Kindle book, because of that I was able to participate.
It is a really lovely version of the story but was a little old for my two girls. The recommended age is four and above and I think that is pretty accurate. It held Boo’s (3 1/2) attention longer than Kooks’s (2) but they both enjoyed looking at the beautiful illustrations by Giselle Potter. This was also our first experience with an ebook and I’m pretty sure the print version would have held Boo’s attention all the way through. There are many similarities between this story and the more familiar Disney Cinderella but the differences were what enamored me to the book.
The orphan, who is never referred to by name but always as the orphan, becomes an orphan when her mother dies but her father lives on and this is explained by, “as people say in Greece, ‘A child becomes an orphan when she loses her mother.’” I found this really interesting because here in Malawi when a child loses one parent they are considered a single orphan and when a child loses both parents they are considered a double orphan. For older children this could become a talking point about how the same word can have different meanings in different cultures.
There is a line about the stepmother that I thought was brilliant, “So hateful was she that she counted every drop of water the orphan was allowed to drink!” The illustration that goes along with this line is so telling. I liked that the image so clearly showed her cruelty but that it wasn’t a particularly scary image.
Some differences to Disney’s Cinderella:
- The orphan goes to her mother’s grave to ask for help and the mother answers her. The exchange between mother and daughter is in rhyme as the mother comforts her and tells her to “go, my child, go to good” and to go home to wait for “true fortune’s blessings.”
- There is no fairy godmother in this story, instead Mother Nature and her children give the orphan gifts which help her to change her own fortune – one of the gifts is tiny blue shoes.
- The prince does not hold a ball to look for a bride but notifies the village that he will be attending their church service.
- The orphan, as instructed by her deceased mother, leaves immediately after the service so the prince does not have a chance to meet her. He is so struck by her that he attends a second service and sets a trap of honey and wax around the entrance to the church to try keep her from fleeing, she manages to get away but loses one shoe in the sticky mixture.
The foreword to the story explains that it was inspired by two Greek versions but that the author made purposeful changes so that the orphan was not the traditional woman waiting for her prince to come and save her. The orphan took some of her own initiative to change her story and to meet her true love – I really loved that element. What I didn’t like so much was the way her father gave in to every wish of her stepmother and did nothing to support or assist the orphan, however, this was not particularly surprising as it is common in a number of fairy tales and could lead to a discussion. Overall I enjoyed this version of Cinderella, particularly the way its lyrical prose and lovely illustrations provided glimpses of a Greek village.
Visit Becky’s post, “Cinderella Story: Around the World” at Kid World Citizen for a lovely selection of Cinderella story reviews from a wide variety of cultures and locations.