If you’re not familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, Cinderella, I recommend clicking here to read the story before proceeding to my commentary.
For many this is the most beloved fairy tale in the Grimm Brothers’s collection. A familiar story that continues to inspire little girls to dream of far away castles and happy endings. Thanks to Walt Disney’s popularized depiction of the mourning maiden, merely mention the name Cinderella and a princess with blonde hair and a blue dress twirls to life in one’s imagination. The princess of princesses she is.
It’s clear from the story that living in fairy land is no different from living in the real world, at least with respect to our fall into sin. Death casts a broad shadow. But in the face of death a promise was given, both in Scripture and in the Cinderella story, a promise of communion, of hope and protection — salvation. In Scripture salvation in Jesus Christ is the promise given immediately after death became a reality. We find it in Genesis 3:15: the first Gospel message, what the Church calls the protoevangelion. It’s the declaration that God will save us, that He will never abandon us. It tells how we’re brought into communion with Him through the death of woman’s offspring — Jesus — and given hope in the resurrection, death’s defeat. In our fairy tale this Gospel message is also delivered to a woman’s offspring, the only daughter of a dying mother.
“Dear child, be good and pious, and then the good God will always protect thee, and I will look down on thee from heaven and be near thee.”
One might find further hints of the crucifixion in what immediately follows in the story. The girl’s father remarries and two step daughters arrive on the scene. It’s not, however, by either of these two that we’re given our happy ending. It’s not by the two thieves on the left and right of the Messiah that we have salvation, but only by the death and resurrection of the good and pious Jesus. When these two “vile and black of heart” sisters enter the picture (who by the end of the story try their hand at thievery), a bad time began “for the poor step-child,” the one who didn’t belong among them.
The Christian reader may detect, here at the beginning of the story, that these two sisters are multifaceted fill-ins. The Sandhedrin and the Roman soldiers had roles in the crucifixion of Christ. In addition to representing the thieves atop Calvary, the sisters also play both of these parts. First, like the Sanhedrin, they show their ignorance of Scripture, next in a fashion reminiscent of the Roman soldiers, they take away her clothes, replacing them with different attire (Matthew 27:27-31). The Sanhedrin didn’t understand what God revealed in what we refer to as the Old Testament. For the step sisters it’s a New Testament passage, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, that is misunderstood. Imagining them among the soldiers mocking Jesus isn’t the least bit difficult.
Why the 2 Thessalonians passage? They’re implying that Cinderella is a freeloader, and in her own father’s house! 2 Thessalonians deals with entitlement, breaking with tradition, serving neighbor, and not being a burden on others. Even the most casual reader is able to determine who is busy and who are the busybodies (2 Thess. 3:11). When it comes to the step sisters’s accusation that Cinderella is not earning her keep, well, it’s clear that the shoe is on the other foot, er, feet. The shoe that fits Cinderella is a different one, one of piety and goodness, and she wears it gracefully.
There is much to discuss in this tale, but let’s focus on just one thing more, worship. The grave of Cinderella’s mother became a place of worship for the girl. She planted a branch that grew into a handsome tree from the torrent of tears she wept there. Similar to Eden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where God came to Adam and Eve in His Word of prohibition, the place of death became the place that fostered her faith and gave Cinderella strength. The place of Christ’s death — the cross — became the tree that sustains Christian faith, the place where God’s good Word conquered evil forever.
Thrice a day Cinderella went and sat beneath it, and wept and prayed, and a little white bird [think dove, think Holy Spirit] always came on the tree, and if Cinderella expressed a wish, the bird threw down to her what she had wished for.
“Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matt. 7:7. See also Luke 11:9; Mark 11:24; Psalm 37:4; Isaiah 30:19; Matt. 21:22). Cinderella had faith. She asked and it was given. Her faith is what carries this tale forward. She relied on God, the bird, as she spoke (in prayer) to the little tree, a beautiful portrayal of the Christian turning to Christ who hung in humility upon the the tree of the cross. Through the cross of Christ God provides us what we need, He answers all prayers upon it’s bloodied branches. Likewise, the bird (God) provides Cinderella with what she needs at the graveside tree. He gives and He takes away (Job 1:21) as it benefits the child of faith.
Cinderella is the story of the Christian and how our Lord works all things for our benefit (Romans 8:28). We come to church where we’re brought into communion with God, where we receive the fruit of the tree of the cross, where we’re sustained, our lives carried forward. It all happens at the tree, the place where God comes to the believer as was promised, the place where Christ bloodied his feet to give us life in the kingdom. His feet bled so ours wouldn’t have to. It’s at the tree that false brides — liars — are made known. People will try to masquerade as the true bride of Christ, the Church, they may deceive man, but unbelievers cannot fool God. He sees that they’re trying to enter the kingdom by way of their own blood, by what they’ve done, not what He’s done, but this is all wrong. Christ’s blood makes our slipper gold, whereas if we rely on our blood it taints the riches we’ve been given.
The points of comparison continue. But as I’ve gone on long enough, I trust you’ll find them for yourself.
The next Finding the Truth in Story will be on Simeli Mountain. Click here to read the fairy tale in advance.
I’m reading the fairly tales from the Fall River Press publication, Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself.
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