The story of Cinderella is a magical fairytale that children of all ages and backgrounds are familiar with. It’s an appealing tale because it includes magic and whimsy, oppression, love, perseverance- all of the things that are included in the story of a hero, or in this case, a heroine. As John Campbell explains in his book, _The Hero with a Thousand Faces,_ a hero (or heroine) goes through many stages on their quest for whatever it is they are looking for in life, and Cinderella is no different. She experiences all of the stages on her quest for love and happiness.
At the beginning of the story, Cinderella is the beloved daughter of a wealthy man, leading a happy, normal life. However, as all heroic journeys begin, according to Campbell, so must this one, with “A blunder-apparently the merest chance-reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood” (Campbell 42). For Cinderella, the blunder is her father’s untimely death that leaves her under the control of her evil stepmother and stepsisters who, jealous of her beauty, keep her confined to the estate and treat her as a servant.
Campbell states: “The first stage of the mythological journey-which we have designated the “call to adventure”-signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown” (Campbell p. 48). Cinderella’s call to adventure comes in the form of an invitation, or summons, to the royal ball, from the castle with the intentions of finding a wife for the prince. Cinderella has spent hours day-dreaming of an opportunity like this, and eager to go, strikes a deal with her stepmother: if she can finish all her chores on time, she can go.
It’s at this point in the story where we meet the first of Cinderella’s mentors, or supernatural aid, her animal friends. Because Cinderella is busy trying to complete her chores, she doesn’t have time to prepare anything to wear to the ball. The animals intervene and create a beautiful dress for her, using items thrown away by the ugly stepsisters.
The next stage in our heroine’s journey is the refusal of the call. Campbell says “Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative” (Campbell 49), and we see this happen in Cinderella’s case when her stepmother and evil stepsisters snatch the call away from her by destroying her ball gown. At this point Cinderella is left feeling hopeless and defeated, and what was a positive, exciting opportunity, is now a crushed dream. It’s here though that we meet another mentor, or again, supernatural aid, Cinderella’s fairy Godmother, who “appears and provides her with everything she needs to attend the ball” (_The Hero’s Journey: Cinderella)._ Cinderella is now able to accept the call, and progress on her journey.
Next we see Cinderella arrive at the royal ball, signifying yet another stage of her journey: crossing the threshold. According to one source, “Once the hero has accepted the call, they have to cross from their old world to the new. This crossing is made at the Threshold.” (Langdon: _”What is Crossing the Threshold?_”) Cinderella begins crossing her threshold when her fairy Godmother equips her for the ball, and finishes crossing then she enters the ball; we see the transformation from a servant into the beautiful, mysterious guest.
All good heroic journeys have tests, evil to contend with and danger to avoid, and Cinderella is no different. While she spends the evening dancing in the arms of the prince, she isn’t able to tell him who she is at the ball, and she must leave by the twelfth stroke of midnight when the magic wears off. In addition, when the price sends his servant to find the owner of the glass slipper left at the ball by Cinderella, she watches hopelessly while her sisters try to cram their feet into it. I believe these events are what make the Belly of the Whale for Cinderella, for according to Campbell, it’s at this point “The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died” (Campbell 74).
The union of opposites, which Campbell describes as Apotheosis, takes place when Cinderella is discovered to be the owner of the glass slipper and is taken to the palace to join the prince, as his wife. She completes her quest to find love and happiness when she marries the prince. It’s at this point, that Cinderella is officially seen as the heroine; “this godlike being is a pattern of the divine state to which the human hero attains who has gone beyond the last terrors of ignorance…This is the release potential within us all…” (Campbell 127). She made it through the hero’s journey, all its various stages, successfully, and is transformed from a parentless, sad, young woman into the heroine living out her dream.
Campbell, Joseph. _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_. Novato: New World Library, 2008. Print.
_The Hero’s Journey:Cinderella._ Web. 5 Sept. 2014.
Langdon, Matt. _What is Crossing the Threshold?._ The Hero Handbook. 15 Nov. 2010. Web. 5 Sept. 2014.
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Topic: Cinderella’s Heroic Journey
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