Cenerentola is a story which works on many levels. It is about the evolution of the feminine, without the aid of a ‘hero’. All the characters in the tale are part of the one being – Zezolla’s father the Prince represents the Heart in Sufi terms, while Zezolla herself is Soul. She is very young and unevolved; there is no mature ‘Mother’ in this story; her Mother is said to be dead. This leaves us with the question of who is the stepmother with her many daughters?
At first I felt that Zezolla’s ‘nurse’, who became the stepmother, was a manifestation of our real or natural mother; the one who cares for us as best she can but who cannot really meet our inner needs as the Great Mother. On pondering this further, I now believe that the nurse / stepmother represents the outer world more generally, and that this story is about the Inner and Outer Realms and the transition and movement between the two. Then the story makes more sense. The outer world is so seductive – when things are difficult, we go shopping, or redecorate the house, buy a new car, but this can only satisfy us for a short time. We look for appreciation, love and happiness in the outer world, but from where do we get the love and nurturing that we really need. It is from the inner realm, as we shall see.
So why does Zezolla encourage the marriage of her nurse to her father, when she already knows that this will be troublesome for her? At the wedding feast a dove comes to her from the Dove of the Fairies in Sardinia, giving her advice as to what she should do when things go wrong. It is much like in some other stories, where the hero does something which is perhaps ‘wrong’ but it turns out to be right. Like when the little humpbacked horse, tells Ivan not to pick up the firebird’s feather as it will bring him much trouble and strife. But he picks it up anyway. Zezolla too knows what she is doing when she persuades her father the Prince to marry her nurse. This will become a great battle for her.
In many ways, the Cenerentola tale is the back story of the Frog Princess and the burning of the frog-skin, as well as showing the evolution of the feminine as ‘One in Herself’. This is a powerful insight into the feminine. Paradoxically, it reflects both the before and the after, while being wholly in the present.
When the Prince marries the nurse, he has taken on the outer world with its many pleasures and seduction. His wife brings with her many daughters who belong to this outer world. We get a picture of this realm from the story – the delicious food, beautiful clothes, and trinkets. He becomes so taken up in this world that he forgets his Soul, his own beautiful daughter – his inner life which he once knew so well, lived, and loved. This is a scenario we are all familiar with – we are seduced by the outer life, by technology, by the speed of our interactions and communications. The sacred, the Soul is forgotten.
So what is it that has been burned? What do the cinders and ashes come from? What has been burnt? Cenerentola place is now among the ashes. Zezolla has gone, she has become Cenerentola. A great transformation has taken place.