The popular children’s story Cinderella has enchanted children and adults alike and the central character of the story continues to fascinate storytellers and moviemakers, centuries later. The popularity of the story can be estimated from the sheer number of times this story has been told and retold with varying depiction and perspectives. In this article, the author Bruno Bettelheim attempts to analyze the story from a psychological perspective.
Contrary to other popular critiques of the story, this version identifies sibling rivalry as the dominant theme of the story. The author suggests that Cinderella’s mistreatment at the hands of the evil step mother and her stepsisters, offers the child an outlet to explain the complicated relationships with his/her sibling and even help him/her justify the animosity between them. Although the concept of sibling rivalry is universal and natural, fairytales such as these help the children manoeuvre through their complex inner feelings and the turmoil they often experience due to their inability to accurately express it. In a child’s world, something as natural and seemingly trivial as sibling rivalry is magnified manifold and when coupled with their inexperience to deal with such overwhelming complex emotions, makes it larger than life and hence difficult to handle or address. Fairytales such as these, help them project their experiences and emotions they undergo while interacting with their sibling, and provide an outlet to their emotions.
I found it difficult to identify with the author’s perspective of the story although it did help me broaden my view and offered me an opportunity to understand and witness the endless possibilities of analyzing the same story from various dimensions.