Cinderella and the Wounded Feminine

Fairy tales and parables often illustrate esoteric ideas that are difficult to understand. Although a metaphor is never perfect in that you can always find something incongruent in the interpretation, they nevertheless help us to grasp concepts that can be a bit slippery to hold on to. The story of Cinderella has been told in dozens of variations and used to illustrate many different morals. It happens to illustrate the concept of the wounded feminine in a way that I find useful.

Probably the best know version of Cinderella is the French version by Charles Perrault written and adapted in 1697. In this version Cinderella is made the house slave by a stepmother and stepsisters who despise her. She is visited by a fairy godmother to assist her in attending a ball by the Prince because her stepmother and stepsisters have prohibited her from going. You know the rest of the story. She dazzles the prince, is finally discovered by the fitting of the glass slipper and lives happily ever after.

What you might not realize is that in Perrault’s version of the story she graciously forgives her stepmother and stepsisters and the sisters also marry lords and find happiness. His moral is: Beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is priceless. Without it nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything.

The more typical ending that we see is that the evil stepmother and stepsisters are punished—in some instances birds come and peck their eyes out. This brings up the issue of wounding among women. Women pass along the wound of objectifying the feminine to their daughters. We often feel that our greatest wounds come from men and sometimes they do, but the wounding begins and is taught by other women.

Thus in the story of Cinderella, we can look at the evil stepmother as a mother who is passing on her own wounds by seeing Cinderella as a mere object to be used—to clean the house, cook the meals, and supply the demands of the household. Her true beauty as a soul is missed and she is seen only as something to be used. All of the women in the household conspire to keep her in this role.

What brought on this hatred of Cinderella is implied at the beginning of the story where we find a young, beautiful, blossoming girl who has just lost her mother—one who was obviously cultivating a true knowing and valuing of her soul. This is the source of Cinderella’s beauty—her essence.

The stepmother arrives on the scene and is threatened and horrified that here is a young girl who is daring to move outside of the agreed upon role of women. Her independence and essential soul potency is seen as a destructive force that must be dealt with quickly and severely. She is placed in a subservient role.

The objectifying, even of her own daughters continues as the stepmother will resort to any means to push her daughters into a “suitable” marriage using any means necessary to accomplish her goals. She trains and schools them and they form a pact to keep any true soul knowing in servitude. They are complicit in their abuse of Cinderella and in their hatred of her.

The introduction of the fairy godmother can be compared to the awakening of the soul. Something magical happens that shakes Cinderella out of her compliant trance and “wakes” her up to the fact that she has given her life away. Amazingly, when she starts acting from an area of strength, her true beauty comes forward.

In order for women to stay in an abusive relationship, the wounded feminine within the woman has to agree that it is to be treated as an object instead of as an individualized aspect of Spirit with a soul. This is why women stay in abusive relationships. The wounded feminine within them agrees with the wounded feminine in the abuser that this is how they are to be treated.

When a woman begins to see and understand the beauty and worth of her own soul, she will refuse to be used as an object of anyone and will leave an abusive relationship, whether that relationship is a marriage, a religious one, work related, or a friendship.

One of the interesting and oftentimes painful things that happen when a woman leaves an abusive relationship is that she alienates other women in her life. They can become angered, confused, and frustrated. The woman has broken a ritual taboo between women, between mothers and daughters that was a tacit agreement that the wounded feminine is our destiny and role.

To break away from that is to destroy the agreement and the illusion of safety that this agreement creates and it opens up a Pandora’s box of unresolved questions, wounds, and betrayals. The woman is no longer a part of an inner circle of women’s complicit denial of their wounding and pain. She exposes the game and gets voted off the island. This type of ostracization is also a powerful motivator among women that keeps us perpetuating the very abuses we decry.

Cinderella eventually moves into her destiny, which is to become queen in her own right. She gains conscious possession of her own soul. She also works towards the happiness of even those who tried to control and oppress her. The path of forgiveness and acceptance creates even more beauty and fulfillment in her life.

Nothing is ever gained by holding on to resentment. Revenge may seem like it would be sweet but you only get muddied by throwing dirt. The ultimate path to healing is through the process of letting go, forgiving, and accepting. It is then they we become free from the past and the abuses that have held us hostage.

This is the true Cinderella story with a happy ending—finding and cherishing your own soul’s beauty, holding no one responsible for your pain but forgiving your past, and moving forward into a beautiful future. In other words, if you are true to the voice of your soul, it will lead you into a beautiful life or into continuing happiness, aka “happily ever after”.