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Book Review: Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After

Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales. Anne E. Beall, Ph.D. Independently published, November 17, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 103 pages.

Reviewed by Marcie Hill.

Thought-provoking is the best term to describe Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After: The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales by Anne E. Beall, Ph.D. 

As children, we read fairy tales for entertainment. We were led to believe that “happily ever after” was real because many stories ended that way. As adults, we hold on to these illusions of “happily ever after,” only to keep us optimistic while navigating adult life.

I would argue that very few of us think about what happened to Cinderella and Prince Charming after we closed the pages of that book. I didn't. And, I probably wouldn't have given it more thought until I read Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After.

After I read Beall’s book, I started wondering why Cinderella wouldn’t live happily ever after. Didn't her fairy godmother give her an enchanting evening filled with a beautiful gown, an amazing carriage, and fabulous glass slippers? Wasn't she selected for an intimate dance with the prince? Didn't the prince marry her after fitting the glass slipper on her foot? How many other women in her town married a prince?

Dr. Beall changed my entire outlook on fairy tales. Although she analyzed several famous fairy tales, Cinderella was the primary focus of the book. In addition to sharing the hidden messages found in these stories, Beall backed up many of her findings with statistics and research. She even breaks down the results by gender, physical features, age, social status, and by how much power each character held. Beall was incredibly insightful in analyzing these stories.

Some of my questions were answered in the second chapter: “My first concern is her lack of qualifications for the job she’s taking.” Dr. Beall was referring to Cinderella’s social status. Based on the story, Cinderella is possibly working-class or middle-class. The mistreatment by her evil stepmother and stepsisters indicates her low status in the household. Dr. Beall notes “that she seems to have some personality disorder that causes her to act like a doormat.” The possibility of Cinderella moving from her social status at the start of the story to a much higher status, in the emotional state she was in at the tale’s end, and without proper preparation, would surely doom her to unhappiness.

Other messages that were painfully obvious to me were that women in fairy tales, as they are in our present society, were treated differently because of their gender. For instance, for women to marry into a social class above their own, they have to be beautiful. This speaks to society’s obsession with standards of beauty, which typically applies to women and not men. 

Dr. Beall also noted that women in fairy tales “love and marry animals or highly unappealing partners, whereas men do not.” I think this also applies to real-life situations where you see men with stunningly beautiful women regardless of how attractive these men are. Beall also asserts that women tend to select mates for qualities other than their looks. 

There are other details documented in the book which reflect society at some level. Most of the characters in the fairy tales are powerful males. They were also typically good people. Women, on the other hand, were passive, less powerful, and were either good or evil. Also, men caused and received the most suffering; women caused the most suffering to other women; children suffered the most. 

This book is a good read, and it will definitely make you think differently about fairy tale characters. Thank you, Dr. Beall, for letting us know that Cinderella did not live happily ever after, despite what the fairy tale says.


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