But the biggest surprise of “Aschenputtel” [Grimm brothers version of the Cinderella story] is that it’s not about landing the prince. It is about the girl herself: her strength, her perseverance, her cleverness. It is a story, really, about her evolution from child to woman.
It is Cinderella herself who plants the magic tree and requests the finery for the ball (which is celebrated over the course of three days). She walks to the party each night rather than traveling by enchanted coach. She leaves not because she has some arbitrarily imposed curfew but because she has danced enough. Then she escapes both the pursuing prince and her own father by hiding in a dovecote or nimbly scaling a tree.
When the prince finally comes a-calling, shoe in hand, Cinderella greets him in her sooty rags. He may be looking for the beauty with the dainty foot, but, as Joan Gould, the author of Spinning Straw into Gold, notes, she demands that he witness the woman she has been, dirt and all, not just the one she will become. So while he provides the occasion for her transformation, he is not the one responsible for it— she can only do that for herself. from Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein. (via feminishblog)