Why I’ll Read Her Fairy Tales

From the time I was having tea parties with my dolls and teddy bears I was captivated with Cinderella’s story.

What I didn’t know as I daydreamed about Cinderella is that God was setting eternity in my heart. The reason I loved the story so much is because the fairy tale I admired pointed to a greater reality—the Gospel.

I’ve thought about this more lately because we recently welcomed Eleanor into our family. Having a little princess in our home has awakened something in me that longs to know God more.

I can hardly wait to tell her fairy tales because they will show her glimpses of a kingdom reality. She is meant to be valued, loved, and even royal. She is meant for kingdom life.

I will tell Eleanor fairy tales like Cinderella because it will point her to Jesus. I recently re-read Grimm’s original story and was amazed at what I saw. While the story may not be a one-to-one parallel with scripture, themes of creation, fall, and redemption are present.

Creation: We are meant to walk in harmony with God.  

In the beginning of Cinderella’s tale we see that she is called good and pious. This reminds me of Adam and Eve at creation, walking in harmony with God.   

Fall: In our sin we are dust and ashes, and all of our good works are like filthy rags.

But we don’t end the first paragraph of Cinderella’s story without things going south.

The mother tragically dies and the father takes a new wife with two daughters who were “beautiful and fair of face, but vile and black of heart.” Suddenly Cinderella was in bondage—a slave of sorts—mistreated and forced to work.

When in captivity we see that Cinderella’s real name is never mentioned. She is only referred to as Cinderella because she has to sleep by the fireside in the ashes. She always looks dusty and dirty, therefore gaining her nickname.

The story of Cinderella provides a helpful parallel for us: it reminds us of our helpless state without Christ. In our original state of sin, we are dust and ashes just like this princess (Gen. 3; Gen. 18:27). As Romans 7:18 shows us, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” 

Just as Cinderella is bound in captivity in her evil step-mother’s home, so we too find ourselves locked in the captivity of sin apart from Christ.

Cinderella’s fallen state is also emphasized in her clothing. At first she is put into an old grey bed-gown and given wooden shoes. The evil stepsisters say to her, “Just look at the proud princess, how decked out she is!”

This so reminds me of how I am without Jesus. Part of Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Without Christ I am dressed like Cinderella in a nasty old grey sack.

What the evil step mother says when Cinderella begs to go to the ball is true, “thou hast no clothes and canst not dance.” In the story she is being wicked towards Cinderella, but in the Christian life, our natural state apart from Christ is that we do not have what it takes to make it to the Marriage Super of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-10) on our own. No one is righteous, not even one! (Rom. 3:10)

But there is good news!

In the fairy tale we find Cinderella beneath a hazel tree crying, begging for something fit to wear to the ball. Then a bird throws down a gold and silver dress which made her look like a foreign princess. Even her slippers were gold.

I love this because believers will also be granted a beautiful dress. In  Revelation 19:7-8 it says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fin linen, bright and pure– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

Like Cinderella, a beautiful dress will be granted to us and it will be righteousness. True believers will be fit for their king.

Redemption: There is a prince who brings us out of captivity.

Jesus was sent by his father to redeem for himself a bride. He brought her out of captivity by dying on a tree. As Christians we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

In the fairy tale, the wicked step-sisters wanted pretty dresses, pearls, and jewels from their father; whereas, simple Cinderella desires only a hazel branch. When her father delivers her request, Cinderella “went to her mother’s grave and planted the branch on it, and wept so much that the tears fell down on it and watered it. It grew, however, and became a handsome tree.”

Christ’s death and resurrection is mirrored by Cinderella’s tears that fall to the ground at her mother’s grave. Just as a seed must die in the ground to bear fruit, so Cinderella’s tears for her deceased mother bring the tree to life that allows Cinderella to meet her prince.

As the story progresses, the king hosts a three-day feast in order that his prince might choose a bride. As the story says,

“The prince went to meet her, took her by the hand, and danced with her. He would dance with no other maiden, and never let loose her hand, and if anyone else came to invite her, he said, ‘this is my partner.’”

This is my favorite part of the story because like Cinderella’s prince, Jesus uses what is lowly to become something beautiful. On our own we aren’t wise or influential. We are foolish and sinful, but God chose what was broken and weak to become his bride—his princess.

Consider God’s word,

Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:26-28).

I love these types of fairy tales because they speak to us about God’s grand story that he has written on our hearts. May these tales draw our eyes to Christ and awaken longing for our King.

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Photos by Mitzi Bodie (If you live in Knoxville I highly recommend her!)

Eleanor’s extra fluffy pink pettiskirt is from CandyShopKids