Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales

Lost and Found: "Cinderella" - Beauty for Ashes

May 07, 2020 Autumn Woods Season 1 Episode 1
Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales
Lost and Found: "Cinderella" - Beauty for Ashes
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Journey through the fairy tale forest on a quest to rediscover your value with the Brothers Grimm's "Cinderella".

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 Lost and Found: Stories of Displaced Female Identity - Episode 1


“Cinderella: Beauty for Ashes”


         Welcome to Lost in the Woods: Finding Your Way as God’s Daughter Through Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods. I’m so excited you’re here. This topic is a little unusual, but not to me. I’m a born-again Christian, and I was bottle fed on God and fairy tales. Jesus spoke in parables constantly to make the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven relatable to people on earth. He designed the stories so that those that have ears to hear would hear. I believe that we have continued to do the same, and that these stories from childhood contain so many symbolic and not-so-hidden messages for God’s children, who are seeking to find their place in this world, struggling to understand their relationships with others, and boldly overcoming obstacles in it. If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, you’re my people! You understand that there are eternal truths in stories and archetypes that keep us coming back to them for reference and comfort well into adulthood. And that’s what this podcast is here to celebrate: the fact that we can see God’s true love for us and reflections of our Christian walk, even in fairy tales. 


         In each podcast, I will read a favorite fairy tale from my childhood that explores these ideas, and then provide an analysis of the things that the story reveals to us from a Christian perspective. Our first season of podcasts is called Lost and Found: Stories of Displaced Female Identity. I’m starting us off with the Brothers’ Grimm’s Cinderella because, for most people, it is probably the most familiar story of displaced female identity. This motif is also known as a Lost Woman story. At the heart of the Lost Woman story, no matter which rendition is being told, is a woman who has lost her value rediscovering it and moving forward with confidence and dignity, stepping into the role we know was meant to be hers all along. We’re taken on the journey with her as she picks up the pieces of her shattered life and heals, becoming better and better equipped to handle the next phase of her destiny. 


          I will admit, there is some bias here for me, because I much prefer what author Joan Gould refers to as the “earth magic” Cinderella vs. Perrault’s version with the fairy godmother. Don’t get me wrong, having a positive female influence when you’re regaining your bearings and identity is VERY important; I’d argue that every woman needs that. But the fact is, most profound healing and restoration is done in the quiet places of our hearts, alone. Just you and the still small voice. Personally, I identify more with the Cinderella who has to build her faith and courage unseen, on her own, with God’s protection, the guidance of the past, her mother’s blessing, and her own convictions as her tools and ammunition.


            At this point in the proceedings, I need to stop and address the nasty victim mentality that we in our “enlightenment” have thrust upon Cinderella. Because so many of us have been exposed to the idea that she is a damsel in distress waiting for her prince by people who have oversimplified the story, we are often unforgiving toward the heroine for the circumstances she finds herself in. She is not a weak, simpering woman when she is made the household slave: she is a child. A broken, lonely child with no one to guide her through life and speak words of affirmation into her spirit. She has no advocate, no one to stand up for her. We can’t expect her to tell off her stepmother and push her stepsisters out of their chairs, mount the dinner table and declare herself queen of the castle. She does not yet possess the confidence or authority to do these things, and she is going to take the long road to get there, because there is no one to show her a shortcut. In the silence of the ashes, under the shade of the hazel tree, she gathers the strength and courage to remember that she is a daughter, not a work horse, she has a divine inheritance, and she does not need anyone’s permission to overcome the wounds of her heart and live out her value.


            So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (Cinderella).


            Take a second to shake off the brutality of that last scene, or calm down if you were a little too excited like me about the retribution, and let’s jump into the analysis. Don’t run away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in this story.  


            In the Grimm’s Cinderella, the first and only positive female interaction we see in the entire piece occurs in the first few lines: a dying mother gives her daughter instruction and her blessing. These words are all Cinderella has to cling to during her years of neglect, abuse, and torment. In our world as women today, imagine that two lines of encouragement are all you are given to tell you who you are, who you are meant to be, and your worth. Now, take that tiny little dagger and try to fend off the onslaught of negative messages you are given daily about yourself by the world. It seems impossible. Without God’s protection, it most certainly is, and even then, you’re still going to get badly wounded because it builds character. Fairy tale rules. 


            Not only is Cinderella rejected by her step-family, her own father seems to have fallen under the spell of second-wife syndrome. He never once reaches out to protect Cinderella from his new wife’s wrath or punishes his step-daughters for their ill-treatment of her. He blindly allows these women to pick his only child apart and strip her of her place in the household. The position of daughter is pulled out from under her like a rug, and Cinderella is flung onto the filthy floor, bruised and tattered, never to rise again. Wrong. She does rise again, and higher than she fell, but it takes strength training. And a tree. 


            I always smile at the language of Cinderella’s request when her father asks what she would like from his journey. “Father, break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on the way home.” I hear snap in her voice when she says this. She has a sense of justice and even at a young age, she knows that her father has tipped the scales unfairly in his neglect and disinterest. “Gimme the first thing that knocks you upside the head!” would be my modern translation. She doesn’t ask for her freedom, because up to this point, he hasn’t cared about the stepfamily’s tyrannical arrangement. And even if she were to run away and leave this house, where could she go? She needs an escape plan that starts small. 


            I love that when the hazel twig arrives on the scene, it doesn’t just bump against her father’s hat, it knocks it off completely. It’s as if God, honoring the words of Cinderella’s mother, is bopping him on the head for his thoughtlessness, sending a clear message for those who have ears to hear. In folklore, the hazel tree is a symbol of wisdom and creativity. In fact, hazel nuts themselves contain a significant amount of protein and Vitamin E and are often considered brain food. It’s so fitting, then, that the tree of creative wisdom hits the oblivious man in the head! The symbolism in this single action is so profound. God, with nature as His weapon of choice, is dethroning the absent father, knocking his crown off. In Psalms, David tells us that when our fathers and mothers forsake us, the Lord takes care of us. No longer will Cinderella seek her identity and position in her father’s house, in the eyes of those who despise and ignore her. God, in the freedom and stillness of nature, will be her teacher and protector.


            When Cinderella receives the hazel twig, she plants it on her mother’s grave, and like the mustard seed of faith, it grows into a magnificent tree. She returns three times a day and cries and prays in the place where the last shreds of love she has known have been lain to rest. She hides in the shadow of the tree and takes her grief there. Similarly, God wants His children to hide in the shadow of His wings and take our anguish to Him. The Man of Sorrows knows what it is to have a broken heart. In fact, the hazel tree itself can be likened to the cross of salvation. Cinderella takes refuge here. She remembers who she is here, and that she was meant for more than her current circumstances. Here, she remembers that she is loved. 


            Cinderella is visited daily by a little white bird, which we can assume is a turtle dove, that watches over her while she prays. In biblical imagery, the Holy Spirit is likened to a dove. He is a comforter and teacher, brushing the dirt from our scraped knees and equipping us with the knowledge and confidence to stand up and keep growing in our faith, fighting the good fight. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus says “Whatever you ask for when you pray, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” We see this principle in action when Cinderella becomes confident enough to express her desires out loud and the bird tosses down whatever Cinderella wishes for. I’m not intimating that God is like a genie in this analysis, I’m just noticing the simple beauty of the way this story illustrates a gospel truth. God wants us to come to Him with the confidence of a child, knowing that our father will take care of us and supply our needs, according to His riches and glory. Cinderella was deprived of this experience in her father’s house. She is having to learn to trust and maintain childlike faith and have her childhood wounds healed so that they don’t hold her back from her destiny.    


It is safe to assume that this gentle training ground of building Cinderella’s faith and confidence lasted for at least four years, since that is the amount of time it takes a hazel tree to mature and become tall enough for her to sit in its shade. This is also the amount of time it takes before it begins producing “fruit,” in this case, hazelnuts. It’s an exciting time in a believer’s life when they begin producing fruit. It means the harvest is just around the corner. 


Before Cinderella can venture further, she must be tested outside of her comfort zone. Notice that the Grimms say “It happened, however, that the King appointed a festival.” In other words, Cinderella’s story could have rumbled along at the same pace in the same environment, uninterrupted by change. She has had enough preparation and training to stay where she is and cope. This “however” shakes things up a bit. Cinderella has become accustomed to asking for her divinely appointed inheritance in her quiet time and receiving it; now she must deal with making a public request that asserts her value to others, not allowing herself to be knocked down. Her first attempt is shaky, which is understandable. When you’ve been made to feel like less than nothing by so many people in your life, it’s difficult to stand up and say, “I am a young, beautiful woman, worthy of the prince, and even if I don’t win him, I am worthy to go and dance and have a wonderful time.”


Notice that Cinderella doesn’t have her sights set on the prince at this time. She does not weep when the stepsisters insist that she get them ready for the festival because she wishes to take a shot at prince charming. Like Don Henley sings, “All she wants to do is dance!” She just wants to go out and have fun and feel like a beautiful, valuable woman. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so!


We know from the beginning that her stepmother has no intention of letting her go to the festival. Even when she devises the “maiden task” of sorting lentils from the ashes, she does not intend to change her mind should Cinderella complete the project. The devil can’t make you a joint heir under God when he doesn’t actually run the kingdom. The stepmother cannot give Cinderella what she was born to have and ascend to because she has limited authority. She, like the accuser, can torment and attempt to prevent Cinderella from realizing her true power by frustrating her efforts and thwarting her desires—she is quick to remind her stepdaughter of her shortcomings and lack of finery—but it is Cinderella herself who has the final say in the fulfillment of her request. 


 It is a painful lesson. We feel for her as she learns it, for we can relate to doing everything in our power to do right by someone and please them in hopes of establishing a good relationship, only to be shot down. Their disdain alone makes it seem like they hold a higher position than we do and that they have some say over the outcome of our lives. When this comes up, we have to remind ourselves that that person is not God. He loves us and does not rejoice in wounding us or stopping our growth. He sees us as we will be, and does everything in His power to help us become our best selves by drawing us near to Him, not banishing us to the fireplace. Our God gives beauty for ashes. Like us, Cinderella must come to terms with sorting good from evil, help from harm. By the end of the lentil sequence, she will understand that she cannot come to an evil source for a good report.  


Any time a maiden task occurs in a story, it is a signal to the listener that our protagonist is growing in wisdom and discernment. Women especially are often called on to complete sorting and organizational jobs because our minds can readily process information globally rather than compartmentally. We learn from experience what to keep and what to toss and where these things should go. How many times have you seen an article about organization written by a woman involving piles of keep, toss, repair, and donate? Sorting and sifting are some of the ways in which we make sense of things in our world and reestablish order. We are told in 1 John 4 to “test the spirits” to see which are from God and which are not. We are given the information of the gospel, which waters our seed of faith, allowing us to produce wisdom and confidence in the Lord. Next, comes practical application through testing. This instance of sifting is not really about whether or not Cinderella’s stepmother will find her worthy and allow her to join the family at the festival: it is about Cinderella learning to apply her power of discernment in hostile territory. 


When Cinderella calls upon the birds to help her put “the good into the pot, the bad into the crop,” it is akin to calling on God’s armies to do battle for us in the unseen realm. We ask God to reveal His truth to us and help us see through and destroy the lies of the enemy. The birds scoop up the lentils, representing the truth Cinderella has garnered about her worth and capabilities, which the stepfamily had previously flung into the soot, and place them in the pot where they belong. The birds devour the bad seeds, which have been too damaged by the ashes and the impact of the toss to be recovered and used. A healing process has begun. It happens twice, and more miraculously the second time, to confirm to Cinderella that she has the faith and canniness to move forward with her life, despite the obstinate hatred of her stepfamily and the damage they have done. There is still more than enough of her left to build a new life. 


Upon the stepmother’s second refusal, Cinderella does not cry and whimper. She has tested the spirits and knows that her stepmother’s cruelty will never change; her heart is hardened against Cinderella. It is now up to our heroine to use the strength she has acquired to alter her circumstances. She boldly approaches the hazel tree and commands—not wishes—for it to throw down silver and gold on her. She comes to the place of love for a glimpse of her divine inheritance and her true position. Here, it is reflected in an opulent wardrobe change, bestowed as a gift upon her by our story’s Holy Spirit figure, the white bird. It is a tried and true rule in all forms of media that a change in outfit style represents an inward shift in a character’s thinking. Cinderella has begun to view herself as the Lord and her mother see her: as a lovely, valuable, capable woman, independent of her family and their false judgement of her.


Her inner transformation is so perfectly reflected in her appearance that even her own family does not recognize her when she arrives at the king’s festival. It is not Cinderella’s intention to attract the notice of everyone present, but her inner beauty and outer glamor radiate so strongly that no one can take their eyes off of her, especially the prince. The crazy thing is, Cinderella has had these traits all along, but she was living in survival mode in her father’s house, an environment that did not allow her inner life and light to visibly grow and thrive and be appreciated. A rosebush is always a rosebush. It needs the right conditions in order to flower. You can’t blast it with cold winds, deny it water, and expect it to burst into radiant bloom for you. Here, as under the hazel tree’s branches, she has no restrictions and is free to be herself. She doesn’t need to be thorny and protective, the prince will do that for her. 


Seriously. He doesn’t want her to leave him for a second. He isn’t cruel and possessive toward Cinderella, but he does firmly let anyone who wants to cut in know that “She is my partner.” The prince does a kind service for Cinderella by preventing her from being spread too thin on her first fun outing in years. She isn’t being passed around like a peace-pipe, expected to be a splendid companion for every man in the room. She didn’t come here for that. She didn’t even come here with the intention of wooing the prince, but she’s got his full attention, simply by being herself. That’s one of the most frequently doled out pieces of advice that I give to single or formerly single friends—when you aren’t looking, the man will show up. 


Again, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not intimating that men equal eternal happiness and that getting married solves all your problems. We all know that isn’t true; no man can fill the holes left in your heart, except Jesus, but I want to emphasize that if you are married or screening a potential spouse, that man should reflect Jesus’ love in his treatment and view of you. 


Back to my original point. So, surprise! Here’s a prince who finds you absolutely beautiful and fascinating and wants to spend the entire evening talking and dancing with you. What do you do with that?


You run. At least, that’s what Cinderella does.  


But why does she leave, you ask? There’s no fairy godmother with a midnight curfew looming over her head. Her clothes are not in danger of turning into rags. The dress and shoes remain fully intact when she leaves them at the gravesite. So why? I can think of several reasons for her flight. 


First, Cinderella knows that she needs to beat her family home so that they do not realize what she has been up to. It isn’t as though she has anywhere proper to stay and a change of clothes to stop tongues from wagging. The extent of her plan was get dressed, show up, dance, and go home. She wasn’t counting on the potential suit of the bride-seeking prince.


Second, this whole concept of being pursued and adored is new to her. No one has said a kind word to Cinderella since her father asked her what she would like him to bring her from his trip. She’s had more compliments and positive, genuine interest expressed in her at the first night of the festival than she has in her entire lifetime! That’s a lot to take in. That’s like hearing nothing but turbulent death metal for a decade and then, suddenly, a soft strain of classical music laps about your ears like gentle waves. It’s wonderful, but jarring when you aren’t used to it. 


Third, she needs to test the prince to see if he is genuine in his interest. Cinderella is no fool. She’s been orphaned and taken advantage of and has had to fight to develop her newfound sense of self-worth. Frankly, Cinderella has enough survival skills at this point from all that manual labor that if she wanted to go out and seek employment elsewhere or live as a hermit in the forest, she could do that and be happy. She wants to know how far the prince is willing to go. Is he only interested in her because she is beautiful, graceful, and a great conversationalist, intending to make her a trophy wife to tote around at parties, or will he pursue her with the same courage it took her to come to his party tonight? The prince may have hosted the festival to find a potential match, but he has met her, and it is now she who is testing him. 


The pattern in which Cinderella takes flight and the prince pursues reminds me so much of the mating ritual between eagles. Once a female eagle finds a mate she is interested in, she grabs a small stick, soars into the air, and drops it. The male must swoop in and catch it. Should he succeed, the female repeats the test, grabbing heavier sticks and dropping them from ever-increasing heights, and he must catch them every time. Finally, she hoists the largest chunk of wood she can carry, often the size of a small log, and hurls it to the earth. Should the male catch that, she chooses him as her mate for life. If not, she moves on and finds someone who can take anything she can throw at him. This ritual is a test to see if the male eagle is strong enough to build a nest with the female and catch eaglets who may fall out of it while learning to fly. In Cinderella’s case, it is a test of whether or not the prince can handle the baggage she comes with and see her true value clearly shining through all of it. 


Notice that each obstacle the prince must overcome leads closer and closer to Cinderella’s father’s house, the center of the storm and tragedy in her life. With the pigeon house, she says, “I am a valuable daughter of God with divine inheritance, but people have told me otherwise all my life. Can you handle me?” With the pear tree, she says, “I was loved by my mother, who instructed me to be pious and good; my faith has grown and I have produced fruit, but I am haunted by the axe of my father’s willful neglect. Can you handle me?” And as she clutches her golden slipper in the house of sadness, it is as if she says, “Even when the world demeans me, hides me, and denies that I have a place in it through trickery, lies, and deceit, there is a part of me deep inside that will never believe them, because I know who I am. Do you? Do you see me and love me for myself? If so, here I am.”


In the chase sequences, the prince does not give up following Cinderella when she leaves him. He comes to the spot where he last caught sight of her, to the limits of where she will allow him to go, and waits. He is patient, he is kind. He does not bulldoze. He waits for her father, who admitted evil into his house with open arms and caused the damage Cinderella is overcoming, to recognize his handiwork and tear it down so that his daughter can emerge. But each time, the men discover that Cinderella has freed herself and abandoned the spot. It is interesting to note that when the father is alone with the prince, listening to him describe the exploits of the stranger-maiden, he suddenly remembers his first child and wonders, “Could it be Cinderella?” There are many ways to interpret this. Sometimes, I hear him say it under his breath, like he is expecting supernatural vengeance to strike him for what he has done, and this could be the day. Sometimes, I hear him marvel, as if he is proud that his daughter has escaped the spell the stepmother has him under and he admires her for it. But other times, I hear him say it like Théoden, King of Rohan, in The Two Towers, when Wormtongue and Saruman have ensorcelled him into a stupor, turning him into their own personal puppet. Dazed, bleary, waking slowly from a dream only to fall asleep once more. As evidenced by his reaction when the prince asks if he has any other daughters, I think it may have been the latter, after all. 


The prince’s job is not to fix what Cinderella’s father has done, but to love her through it. She has learned that she is more than her childhood wounds, but like any of us, she will have some bad days in the future. Things will hurt that she thought she was done with a long time ago. If the prince does not know the root cause of these issues and understand where she is coming from, he can’t help her or know what to do when crises arise. By tossing her sticks this way, Cinderella is allowing him to draw closer to her and come to a greater understanding of who she is and why she does what she does. Basically, she is inviting him into her mess, and determining whether or not he is tough enough to stand it. 


To our great delight, the man of the hour is smart enough to wade through the mess and come up with a move of his own. By spreading pitch on the stairs, he is telling her, “Send me to a million pigeon houses, I don’t care. You are worthy. I want you, and you don’t need to run from me. Please stay.” In her best dress and golden shoes, Cinderella makes her final departure from the festival, “[escaping] from him so quickly that he [cannot] follow her,” leaving one of the shoes sticking in the tar. I’m inclined to agree with Sondheim’s take on the matter, that she left the shoe on purpose. Not because of indecision, but because she wanted to take him into the lion’s den; into the home of her cruel, blind family, so that he may see what they are up against. It’s time to prove he can catch the log.  


The prince has already gathered that Cinderella’s father is not her biggest fan. He has yet to encounter the wicked games and secret language women use on men and each other like silent daggers. Come in for a hug, feel a blade sneak between your ribs. He will learn a little more about this when he arrives at the house, golden slipper in hand, expectation in his heart. He knows that the woman he intends to marry lives here, but not the full extent of the conditions under which she dwells. 


I have to remind myself in these kinds of dealings that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is the only way that the actions of the stepmother make any sense. Until now, she has allowed and committed any imaginable atrocity against Cinderella to prevent her from gaining advantage over her own daughters. Now, she is willing to destroy her daughters to punish Cinderella. Even though they have beautiful feet, she encourages them to cut themselves down in order to fit into a role they were never meant to play. It’s demonic, and we do it all the time. We tell ourselves and each other that we must fit into this teeny-tiny, specially designed niche meant for someone else to thrive in, thinking that if we become less of ourselves, we will be accepted and adored. Good things will happen for us if we can get down to a size zero. Someone will discover us and give us our due if we have a commercially pleasing look, sound, or talent. We can make up for what we lacked in childhood by being the smartest, highest-achieving, hardest-working, or the richest. Speak up more. Speak up less. Be assertive. Take it down a notch. Be a servant. Don’t be a doormat. Be perfect. Loosen up. We sometimes get all of these messages within the same hour, and often the people who are meant to encourage and guide us are the mouthpieces. In the end, we not only walk away limping and wounded, we lose focus on God and who He meant us to be, too distracted by the false messages we are trying to live up to at the time. 


The stepmother with her knife is the embodiment of this concept. Her manipulation knows no bounds as she tells her oldest daughter to “cut the toe off,” handing her the blade and the lie that when she is queen, she “will have no more need to go on foot.” The proper function of royalty is to be a public servant, not to be served. Oversimplifying the assumed glamorous benefits of being queen, the stepmother does not elucidate the responsibilities and duties that come with the position. Her daughters have no experience in serving others, and would be ill-suited to the throne. There is only one person in the household who has been trained from an early age in servanthood, and she’s holding the other slipper! 


Falling victim to her mother’s lies, the eldest stepsister mutilates her foot and attempts to fool the prince. He takes her on his horse at first, but gets a lesson in discernment when they ride past the hazel tree and the birds advise him to check out her biohazard footwear. He returns the imposter and the performance is repeated by the younger stepsister, who fares no better, giving up a chunk of her heel before the prince realizes that she, too, is a “false bride.”


It always irritates me that he takes the wrong bride twice. I want to give him more credit than that. He spends three days dancing with this woman and getting to know her, falling in love with her and chasing her down. He’s smart enough to spread pitch on the stairs; surely, he is smart enough to tell three women apart?   


My theories are, the festival was a series of masked balls, the stepsisters looked very much like Cinderella, or the stepmother threw a veil over each daughter’s face to conceal their pained expressions. Whatever the case, the prince is wise enough to heed the divine warnings to “turn and peep,” at the bloody shoe, and return both false brides to their home, insisting that the true bride be brought before him. The father’s answer implies that Cinderella belongs to no one. The stepmother’s answer, that she is unworthy. Confident in the truth, the prince swipes through their lies and summons his bride. 


Considering the log caught, Cinderella washes herself clean, preparing herself to receive her future husband like the Bride of Christ, casting off the old, heavy wooden, shoe of her slave-hood and putting on the golden slipper of adoption and perfection, proving her identity and worth beyond a shadow of a doubt. I love that she puts it on herself, instead of the prince doing it for her. Cinderella’s independent action shows that she has already accepted that she is meant for more than what her family would have her believe. And she doesn’t have to beat each of them over the head with the other slipper to prove it. All she has to do is quietly, but publicly, accept herself, and having done all, stand. When she stands, the prince recognizes her right away as his “true bride.” 


This parade of false and true brides makes me think of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Five bring lamps with reserves of oil, and five bring only their lamps. The ones who are prepared are welcomed to the wedding feast, while the foolish ones are shut in outer darkness as the bridegroom tells them, “Truly, I do not know you.” Events might have turned out differently if the stepsisters’ insides matched their outsides. Their confidence was shaky, built on fear, manipulation, and cruelty. Had they cultivated the same inner beauty as Cinderella, learning that their value came from God’s love rather than their stepmother’s schemes and their own affected superiority, they could have survived the ordeal of the shoe without destroying themselves. It would have been easier to accept that they were not meant to be queen, and discover what it is they are designed to do. At this point, however, it is too late to wish them well. They prove themselves irredeemable as they and their mother are “horrified and [turn] pale with anger” at the revelation that Cinderella has thwarted them, winning a prince and a kingdom in the process. 


Fortunately, the royal couple doesn’t stick around long enough to let the family’s rage infect their happiness, and they gallop away from the house of sadness toward the prince’s castle. On the way, they pass the hazel tree, and the prince receives confirmation from the two white doves resting there that he has chosen the right bride at last. In a beautiful illustration of omnipresence and the power of life and death in words, the two doves alight on Cinderella’s shoulders and remain with her throughout the preparations for the wedding, comforting and protecting her. Graduating from one phase in your spiritual walk to another does not mean that the Holy Spirit leaves you. The comforter is assigned to those who receive Him all our lives on earth. Cinderella carries the lessons she has learned and her mother’s blessing with her from one level to the next. 


Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of death and life are in the tongue, and James 5:16, that the prayers of the righteous are powerfully effective. I have seen evil people prosper because of the prayers and affirmations spoken over them by their parents, long after the parents have passed away. I have seen good people suffer over a lifetime because of the vicious pronouncements of parents who spoke in anger and bitterness over them. Cinderella’s mother gave her the firstborn blessing of God’s protection and her help before passing away. Since Cinderella kept her end of the covenant by remaining “pious and good,” the words are doubly effective. She does not need to take vengeance on her stepsisters to make her victory complete: her mother’s blessing will do it for her. 


When the wedding day arrives, the stepsisters crash the party, hoping to gain favor and benefit from the marriage. They do not realize that justice is about to be done. The doves on Cinderella’s shoulders peck out one eye from each sister before the wedding, and take the remaining two after the ceremony is finished. This is done to punish the sisters for their cruelty to Cinderella, and to symbolize their blindness to the miserable state in which they caused her to live. The last thing they see is the triumph of the one they abused. Psalm 23 mentions the Lord preparing a table before the speaker in the presence of his enemies. Psalm 91 states that we will “only observe with our eyes, and see the punishment of the wicked.” Cinderella witnesses the divine punishment of her tormentors, but we do not know her reaction to the event. Perhaps this is hidden to remind us that it is not in her character to bear ill-will toward her enemies. We can only imagine that she will “do good to those who hate [her],” while remembering that there are consequences for those who mean harm to God’s anointed. 


 We’ve all been Cinderella. Some of us are there still. And whether we know it or not, we have all been someone’s wicked stepmother. Let’s choose our words carefully, remembering our value in Christ, and that eternal rewards come to those who endure. Thanks for stopping by. I’m Autumn Woods, and I can’t wait to see you on the path again next time you get Lost in the Woods.