“This is a story from a place called Germany, a land far, far away. It’s a story about a gentle, young maid girl, and how a royal prince falls in love with her,"
With the child in her arms, wrapping them in her large hunting cloak made of an animal’s hide, the woman thumbed the edges of the old, leather book, slowly opening it and flipping through the pages, stories that have all been told to the young child before, all except for one.
Excited, the child shifted comfortably under the warm fur, leaning close onto the woman, their head on her shoulder, a grin beaming as she stopped on the first page of a new story. A new adventure. A new tale of wonderful places and wonderful people. A retreat to the lands far, far away.
“This is the story of Cinderella.”
From their divided lips, the child mouthed that name again and again. “Cin-der-el-la… Cin-der-el-la…”
A beautiful name. Something graceful and unique. “Cin-der-el-la…”
“Yes,” said the woman, placing a hand on the child’s head, a line running straight down the middle of it, many more lines sectioning their head off into different pieces. Two pieces, one for each eye. One piece for the nose. Two pieces for either ear. Two pieces for either side of the jaw, ending at the center of the mouth. It was as if a dollmaker had made its latest figurine piece by piece, but the places had been mismatched between dolls, and the lines between each piece hadn’t been painted over.
Hesitating for a moment to watch the child’s mouthing before starting the story, she tilted her head to see their face, smiling in adoration. “Yes, Cinderella, the humble maid girl.”
The child’s face was no doubt unnatural. Of course, while still human, it was something one might see upon some sort of monster.
When it came to structure, all was in order. Nothing was off about the proportions of their head, either. However, the child’s face did not have matching eyes, matching ears, or even matching halves of their lips. Each piece of the child’s head was one of another child, one never seen, one unknown. The child’s entire body was like this, divided into neat sections, each shape and space colored in a different tone, being of a different body-type, each square seeming to belong to an entirely different human being.
Their smile, full of youth and excitement, was beautiful.
The child, with both of their eyes, looked eagerly to the woman, then to the book. “Mamma, tell the story, tell the story…!” With a short, brief, quiet laugh, she did as told, turning her head to the pages and beginning. “Yes, skatten min, yes, yes…”
The woman had dreaded people since she was but a young girl, and as such, now in her moderate age, she lived in isolation from the rest of the world, far from the nearest town, a thick wood dividing her from it. And so, as such, the town had dreaded her as well, as she had been in common local legend as the quiet witch within the woods. Nobody dared to bother her, and she hadn’t dared journey into town. She hadn’t even known she was a witch, for all she had wanted was a place away from those so quick to hold such prejudice.
Since her early adulthood, the woods is where she remained, building her own cabin, hunting for her own food, and farming all on her own, creating a life so surprisingly sustainable for one woman alone. Perhaps such strength is what gave her the title of an unnatural witch. Such miracles of survival must be impossible.
And so it was, one gentle morning, the sun in such soft-glow, peeking through the thick branches and winter brush of the forest, where on a hunting run, she heard the sound of a baby. Somewhere, deep within the woods where no person but her had the courage to step foot, there was the fragile presence of a crying baby.
With reasonable concern, she ran across the forest, desperate to find whatever poor child had been left behind. Then, when she came upon the forest river’s edges, she saw it.
Basking in the rays of the winter sun, laying upon the patch where dirt and snow met at the river, almost as if set there by some merciful power above, was the baby, reaching out, kicking its legs, sobbing for some sort of rescue.
With a short gasp, she ran to the child, only an infant, and picked it up, quickly, looking around past the trees, only to see that nobody was there.
This child, only just entering the world, it seemed, had come upon the river bank by some miracle of survival. Somehow, the child had lived.
She looked down to the crying baby in her arms, soon entranced by their appearance, lined and divided as if it was every human soul within one poor, weak newborn. The woman had then realized what had happened. This child was not meant to be born. This child was abandoned, surely. This poor, darling child.
Slowly starting to rock the baby back and forth, taking it away from the running water. “You poor, poor baby,” she thought, “how did you get here?” She took another look around the sea of nature’s white. “How did you end up so far away from home…?” With another look at the baby, slowly calming down, staring right up at her with two different adorable eyes, she thought, “where is your home?”
With no other option left in sight, her cabin had then become the baby’s home, and for weeks, then months, then years, she had raised the baby all on her own, as if it were her own child. A gift given to her by the woods.
Solskinn. Sunshine. That is what she called them.
“Shake and quiver, little tree,
Throw silver and gold down to me.”
Full of wonder, the child was sitting upon the floorboards now as the woman continued to sit in her wooden chair, reading from the pages with descriptive, emotional narration.
“Then, the bird threw a gold and silver dress down to her, and slippers embroidered with silk and silver.” Her gentle voice helped the child’s imagination bring the gold and silver dress to life. They had seen dresses like this in illustrations.
An open space for the collarbones and shoulders to feel the breeze. Short sleeves ruffled at the ends, wide open for delicate arms to run through. A waist thin enough to sit snug on the waist of the maiden inside. They always wondered how their waists were that thin. Mamma’s waist was never that thin, and while the child could make their waist rather petite, it never could be as thin as it was in the illustrations. They thought it must be impossible.
Then, at the end of the thin waist, it would blossom outwards, downwards to the floor in a beautiful, intricate skirt that flowed as the maiden would walk across the ballroom floor. The child loved those long dresses, their long skirts. They wondered how fun it must be to spin in them, the soft cloth twirling in the air.
They loved the dresses Mamma made or handed down them, and the pants, too. The shirts as well. They loved all of their clothing, whether it was Mamma’s childhood outfits or Mamma’s excellent seamstressing. Sometimes, Mamma would come back with the fur from an animal and make a big coat out of that for them. They loved the big fur coats the most.
“Then, the bird threw down an even more magnificent dress than on the preceding day, and when Cinderella appeared at the festival in this dress, everyone was astonished at her beauty.”
The child thought of how beautiful that Cinderella must be, a stunning girl that bewildered everyone at the sight of her. The child thought of what eyes she must have… perhaps eyes as gentle as a rabbit’s? Yes, small and delicate, showing innocence and kindness with each glance. “Yes, what beautiful eyes those would be,” the child affirmed, and so each of the child’s eyes had become just that. Just as the child wished, the child had new eyes, still human yet resembling the gentle eyes of a rabbit.
The child then wondered what nose Cinderella must have. Perhaps one like the beak of a bird? Yes, just like the birds that gave the dresses to her. Slightly curved, hooked in a way by the end with wide nostrils, just like the nostrils of a dove. They had seen a dove in another illustration before. So, as the child thought of such a nose, the child’s nose became just that.
The child continued to wonder upon the girl’s face.”What lips would she have?” they wondered. Then, they looked up to Mamma, her lips mouthing each word, speaking the tale of the beautiful girl to them. Thin at the corners, then just slightly rounded near the center. Lips from such a wonderful woman would do nicely upon such a pretty girl. “The girl must tell many stories, too,” the child thought, their lips becoming those of Mamma.
Mamma glanced from the book to the child, smiling. Such a beautiful, new face. Such a beautiful child. Such a beautiful miracle.
“The prince said, ‘I will go along and escort you,’ for he wanted to see to whom the beautiful girl belonged. However, she eluded him and jumped into the pigeon coop.”