As I worked to refresh my memory and double check some secondary and primary sources while completing my Cinderella Tales From Around the World, I reread the following passage from Alan Dundes’ introduction to “The Study of the Cinderella Cycle” by Archer Taylor in Cinderella: A Casebook:
In correspondence with Professor J. W. Hassell, Jr. of the University of Georgia, Professor Taylor wrote in April, 1970: “I began to write last November and have perhaps another day’s work. I must not let my grip of this confused subject slip or I shall be another month on this job.” He added in a marginal note, “She took two days more but she is now ready for public appearance.” In a later letter dated April 30, Professor Taylor commented as follows on his own paper “Cinderella was only 12 pp., but I never had the troubles in writing anything that I had with this. And it is, alas, a dull job, when finished. But it does contain much information, and I learned a lot.”
Eureka! I understood this completely. My Cinderella book has been years in the compiling, with fits and tantrums all around while life and my own limitations got in the way again and again. About six months after starting the manuscript, I was seriously sick, the worst in my adult life, but thankfully a temporary ailment in the long run. Cinderella went on the backburner during my months of illness and recovery. My brain simply couldn’t wrap itself around the massive wealth of information on the tale. When I finally was well enough to work on a manuscript again, I tried to return to Cinderella. I couldn’t. So I decided to pick an easier tale to get myself used to the work again. That resulted in Bluebeard Tales From Around the World (Easy? Ha! Easier than Cinderella? Yes….) followed by my mermaids collection.
After completing those, I was finally ready to return to Cinderella. So I did. And for months I worked on it, borrowing time from other projects, reading, translating, searching and searching again.
Then life got in the way again in the form of a house move and renovation. I was about six weeks from completing the manuscript at that point but my life went into overdrive quite unexpectedly and I couldn’t return to it for about six months. When the house was livable and my office workable, I had to practically start all over again for all but a few of the tales were completely blurred and merged in my brain. Cinderella is a slippery slut—not my name for her, that’s one she is often given in the tales!—and I was tempted too many times to give her up. But I had come so far and I was determined to finish.
How did Marian Roalfe Cox and Anna Birgitta Rooth manage their pivotal, groundbreaking works on Cinderella? Before computers, no less! I respected them previously but practically worship them now. That lack of a computer also helped me forgive the slight flaws in their works. Cox, in particular, was amazing and since I couldn’t improve her work, I had to borrow a goodly portion of it for the new book, but more about that later.
And so the book is done. Or at least abandoned and thus made officially done in that way. For Cinderella never ends and I will be thinking about her for the rest of my life, I imagine.
Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing some of the Cinderella knowledge and tales I acquired during this process. I hope you enjoy the journey with me!