Let’s start with a story: 

And when it was evening Cinderella wanted to go home, and the Prince was about to go with her, when she ran past him so quickly that he could not follow her. But he had laid a plain, and had caused all the steps to be spread with a pitch, so that as she rushed down them the left shoe of the maiden remained sticking in it. The Prince picked it up, and saw that it was gold, and very small and slender. The next morning he went to the father and told him that none should be his bride save the one whose foot the golden shoe should fit.

Then the two sisters were very glad, because they had pretty feet. The eldest went to her room to try on the shoe, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her great toe into it, for the shoe was too small; then her mother handed her a knife, and said, “Cut the toe off, for when you are Queen you will never have to go on foot.” So the girl squeezed her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain and went down to the Prince. Then he took her with him on his horse as his bride, and rode off. They had to pass by the grave, and there sat the two pigeons on the hazel bush, and cried: 

There they go, there they go! 
There is blood on her shoe; 
The shoe is too small,
—Not the right bride at all!

Then the Prince looked at her shoe, and saw the blood flowing. And he turned his horse round and took the false bride home again, saying she was not the right one, and that the other sister must try on the shoe. So she went into her room to do so, and got her toes comfortably in, but her heel was too large. Then her mother handed her the knife, saying, “Cut a piece off your heel; when you’re Queen you will never have to go on foot.” 

So the girl cut a piece off her heel, and thrust her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the Prince, who took his bride before him on his horse and rode off. When they passed by the hazel bush the two pigeons sat there and cried:

There they go, there they go! 
There is blood on her shoe; 
The shoe is too small,
—Not the right bride at all!

Then the Prince looked at her foot, and saw how the blood was flowing from the shoe, and staining the white stocking. And he turned his horse round and brought the false bride home again. “This is not the right one,” said he, “have you no other daughter?”

“No,” said the man, “only my dead wife left behind her a little stunted Cinderella; it is impossible that she can be the bride.” But the King’s son ordered her to be sent for, but the mother said, “Oh no! She is much too dirty. I could not let her be seen.” But he would have her fetched, and so Cinderella had to appear.

First she washed her face and hands quite clean, and went in and curtseyed to the Prince, who held out to her the golden shoe. Then she sat down on a stool, drew her foot out of the heavy wooden shoe, and slipped it into the golden one, which fitted it perfectly. And when she stood up, the Prince looked in her face, he knew again the beautiful maiden that had danced with him, and he cried, “This is the right bride!” 

The step-mother and the two sisters were thunderstruck, and grew pale with anger; but he put Cinderella before him on his horse and rode off. And as they passed the hazel bush, the two white pigeons cried:

There they go, there they go! 
No blood on her shoe; 
The shoe’s not too small,
The right bride is she after all!

And when they had thus cried, they came flying after and perched on Cinderella’s shoulders, one on the right, the other on the left, and so remained. 

And when her wedding with the Prince was appointed to be held, the false sisters came, hoping to curry favor, and to take part in the festivities. So as the bridal procession went to the church, the eldest walked on the right side and the younger on the left, and the pigeons picked out an eye of each of them. And as they returned the elder was on the left side and the younger one on the right, and the pigeons picked the other eye of each of them. And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.

Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, Cinderella

I wanted to be Cinderella and go to the dance, wearing a fancy dress with golden shoes to catch the eye of the one boy whose attention everyone wanted. I wanted to dance the whole night with him wanting me, and me finally feeling wanted. But more than that, I wanted to do it for all the world the see, the whole town all packed into the palace envying lil’ ole me. And then I wanted to go home, back to my cinders and doves and rags, because it was the comfort to which I’d grown accustomed. I would go, leaving the prince and all the guests aghast at the audacity of that girl in the golden shoes who bolted. 

But I have rarely been her. 

I’ve been the Prince who wanted so much and with such a blind rage that I could not take no for an answer. And you know what they say, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” I took because I was the Prince. You can’t possibly know how lonely it is to sit on the throne. I took because they said I could, and that I should have and have some more.

I have been both sisters waiting for my chance to make it big. I seized every opportunity, ill-fitting and grossly uncomfortable. I have so many missing toes and stubs for heels. There was so much blood that just to see it makes anyone wince in pain. I received every knife that I have ever been handed and encouraged everyone to look away. It would be okay—anything to be The One. 

I have been the mother wielding the knife and razor-thin suggestions, “Lose a little bit more weight.” “Play a little dumb.” “Pretend not to see.” “You gotta hustle a little more to be a queen.”

I have been both pigeons pointing and calling out, “It can’t be her? Really, her? Why her? Not her.” 

I’ve been the father who’d forgotten that my past was human, and therefore significant.

I have been the pigeons holding the captive, digging my claws into her flesh until she bled and knew her place. I have pecked out the eyes of the sacrificed and the lost.

And, more times than I want to admit, I have been the golden shoe, bloodied and worn, molding myself to cradle and fit everyone who entered. 

I have been all of these things.

I have been the sun, the moon, and the stars who sat back and watched it all—men being men and all the women who wanted.


Marcie Walker