Rediscovering Cinderella . . Part I

One of my favorite fairy tales is the story of Cinderella (and I’ll tell the Disney version I grew up loving).  

Cinderella, a lowly, abused maid, and her little mice (including the adorably chubby Gus) live in a high-up tower in the house that she herself should rightfully own as her father’s only heir . . except that the house belongs first, by law, to her stepmother.

Surrounded every day by loads of laundry, piles of dishes, demanding, selfish stepsisters, a calculatingly malicious stepmother, and an evil cat to boot, Cinderella has no means of escape.  None.

But then one day, an opportunity– not an opportunity of a lifetime, but a supernatural opportunity that does not come in anyone’s normal lifetime–appears when she least expects it.

Stripped of the dress she tried to make for herself to reach qualification for the ball–her dress literally ripped away by her sisters who (truthfully) claim various pieces of it were stolen by the mice–Cinderella lays on the floor of her own home where she is a slave, weeping . . and the sound of horse-hooves disappears outside, her stepmother and stepsisters carted away to the ball.

At the lowest point in her life, with no hope at all, surrendered to her bondage forever, the final straw of her will broken, who should appear but her fairy godmother?

Now, no one has ever even heard of a fairy godmother (no one in Cinderella’s world).  In fact, looking at this story through the eyes of Cinderella’s world, her world is less expectant of such an event occurring than our world, because in our world we at least have heard of fairy godmothers . . but in Cinderella’s world, no one even knows such a gift exists!

Cinderella had absolutely no expectation of her fairy godmother’s coming.

Unlike other fairy tales, Cinderella didn’t wish for the gift to come . .

. . she didn’t pay or earn the right for the gift to enter her life . .

. . she wasn’t smart enough to invent something to connect her to the gift . .

. . she didn’t discover something to take her to the event . .

. . she wasn’t clever enough to discover the gift on her own . .

. . and it wasn’t by an inherent right that she received the gift.

Her fairy godmother shows up when she least expects it, transforms her rags into a ball gown the like of which has never been seen in her world, and creates for her a carriage to take her to the ball.

The fairy godmother’s magic, however, is limited to midnight, and at that point, Cinderella’s dress is turned back to rags, her carriage to pumpkin, her horses to mice.

. . Amazing, isn’t it?  Versions of this story have captured attention around the world for we-don’t-even-know-how-long.  Type in your search engine “versions of Cinderella stories around the world” and you find a list of countries in which some form of this story appears.

But . . why?

Have you ever wondered what’s behind the Cinderella story?

Is something striking you very familiar about it, but you can’t quite place your finger on it?

Or have you already realized its origin?

If you go back thousands of years, you will find what I believe is the trunk of this story that so captivates the hearts of children–especially girls–everywhere.

But if you’re to understand this trunk, you need to know the real name of the first character who I think experienced the story of Cinderella:

Joseph.

That’s right.  His name was Joseph.

He lived a long time ago, with his father, his mother, his stepmother, his stepbrothers, his stepsister, and his little brother.  You see, in his family, his father was tricked into marrying his stepmother, and, as a result, a devastating family furrow was laid.  The stepmother and the mother fought for the husband’s favor–but it wasn’t so easy as to say the stepmother was evil and the mother was good.  Not at all.  Both were in a heart-aching struggle for love and both more than likely wronged each other.

The stepmother had many children, but the mother only had two: Joseph, and his little brother.

But the father loved Joseph and his little brother most.  Far most.  And the stepbrothers knew it.

When Joseph was still young, on the day his little brother was born, his mother died.  We don’t know who raised him after that point, whether it was his stepmother, or one of his father’s servant-wives, or who else it might have been.  But we knew he grew up as a treasured favorite of his father.

Joseph fell in ill favor with his stepbrothers for many factors, the first of which was more than likely simply because he was the favorite.  When looking at the events that led up to what would happen to him, there are different theories on whether Joseph brought some of the troubles on himself or not, but, however it was, his brothers hated him.

And then, one day, his father gave him a special gift.  A beautiful, beautiful robe.  But when he visited his stepbrothers, they stripped him of his coat and threw him in a pit, an empty well.

He begged and pleaded with them to pull him back out.  To set him free.  But they sat down for a meal.

While he was in the worst anguish of his life, they were getting ready to eat.

And then, what should come along but a caravan?

Joseph’s circumstance dramatically changed, but not to dramatically better.  Rather than being left in a well to die slowly of thirst, he’s sold to merchants headed to Egypt–a country of pagan gods, extravagant Pharaohs, and desperately lowly slaves.  And from the way his stepbrothers thought later, they seemed to view this slavery as leading to death.

Cast out, exiled to become a slave, Joseph was powerless to change his circumstances.  Trapped in a caravan, very likely bound by ropes, he was led away to a country he’d never been in, to serve a people he did not know.

Joseph worked as a nobody, a nothing, a slave, probably for years.  Then, thrown in prison under false accusation, he found himself in the pit of Egyptian society with no way out.

But something happens.

God steps in.

God gives Joseph, with total clarity, the explanation to two dreams.  And two years after, his knowledge of dreams becomes known to the king.  The king, who’s had a dream that bothers him very much, commands for Joseph to be brought before him.

Given (probably hurriedly) an opportunity to clean up and change clothes, Joseph–this nobody of nobodies–is suddenly, surprisingly, supernaturally brought before the king of all the land.

And God again gives him, with total clarity, the explanation for the dream.

Instantly (quicker than a fairy godmother can wave her wand!), Joseph finds himself dressed in expensive clothes, wearing Pharaoh’s signet ring on his finger and a probably impressively weighty gold chain around his neck.  He’s the shocked new owner of a chariot,  accompanied by servants running ahead of his chariot proclaiming his importance, renamed to fit in the order of Egyptian regalia, gifted with a wife who was probably very beautiful and her father probably very powerful, and, by the way, commander of every person in the nation except Pharaoh himself.

(Not even Cinderella’s godmother could have accomplished all this before the clock struck midnight!)

And not only this, but the clock does not strike midnight for Joseph.

During a famine, he lives in multiplying wealth that I would imagine would be comparable to the top wealthiest in the world of our day, he’s gifted with at least two sons, honored and feared most likely wherever he goes, and, as if this isn’t enough, he’s given a double inheritance of his father’s land, a gift that becomes very significant hundreds of years later when the Promised Land is divided for the 12 tribes.  Joseph lives the rest of his life without the clock striking midnight.

Wow.

And I thought the story of Cinderella was good.

But just wait.

Because the story of Joseph is next to nothing compared to the Cinderella story to come.

For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! (Isaiah 64:4, NLT)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9b, NLT)

Read Joseph’s Cinderella story for yourself.  Backdrop: Genesis 29-30, Genesis 33 (the game of favorites), Genesis 35 (the death of Rachel), and Joseph’s story: Genesis 37, 39-50.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A beautiful comparison, my darling.

    Cinderella is among my favorite fairy tales, and Joseph is high in the running for my 2nd favorite Bible story.

    By and large, fairy tales are built on the turnabout, and the final reveal. Joseph’s life certainly had plenty of that. From the favorite son to the outcast to the chief slave to the prisoner to the royal vizier, his life was full of dramatic ups and downs. And his brothers? Jacob and his family were very wealthy until the famine hit and left them destitute. In desperation, they sought help in Egypt, and soon Joseph returned them to prosperity.

    As for the final reveal, Joseph certainly had his big moment. But best of all, rather than punish his brothers for how they treated him, he showed them mercy. He could have spent those years harboring bitterness for his family, and ordered them executed on the spot. Or he could have sent them away to starve. Or he could have fed them, but made them slaves as they had done to him. But instead, after testing their loyalty to the rest of the family, he forgave them and ushered them into a wealthy and prosperous land.

    On Sat, Aug 24, 2013 at 10:54 AM, gracestories


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