30 September, 2021

#GuestPost :: The Many Reincarnations of Cinderella by Bruce Calhoun, #Author of Ardennia: The Unlikely Story of Cinderella’s Prince


Working passage on a tramp freighter, fending off White Tipped oceanic sharks on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, filming lowland gorillas in Africa, capsizing a sailboat in the Bermuda Triangle, mushing sled dogs in Alaska, teaching marine biology in Puerto Rico, exploring the Amazon, founding Save the Rainforest in 1988, and writing an award winning play, an autobiography and Ardennia are but a few of the highlights in my life. Currently I am serving as president of Save the Rainforest and living a rather sedate life in Southwestern Wisconsin with my beloved wife.

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The Many Reincarnations of Cinderella

Perhaps the most famous fairy tale in Western literature, Cinderella has been retold and reimagined in a staggering number of books and movies.   The books and movies fall within two categories:  modern day Cinderella stories featuring an underdog heroine and historical Cinderella stories with a twist – such as telling the story from the point of view of a mouse that gets turned into a horse. Cinderella has also become part of a catchphrase for any sports team that attains great success against all odds or any individual who goes from rags to riches.   I will confine myself to commenting on a few historical Cinderella books, including my own:  Ardennia:  The Unlikely Story of Cinderella’s Prince.

Let’s start with Cinderella and the Prince by Bridget Cantwell.  In a sentence this version of Cinderella is about childhood friends James and Gabriella reuniting to save the kingdom of Essenia from an evil prince (we authors love to have titles like Narnia, Ardennia and Essenia).  The plot comes down to Gabriella  – the  Cinderella in this story – preventing her stepmother from stealing her inheritance. The magic that overcomes all obstacles in this story comes from Gabriella’s courage, loyalty, and love for her friends.

The Prince’s Diary by Renee Ting simply takes a peek at Cinderella’s prince’s personal diary to tell the tale from his point of view.  This novella of 32 pages is geared towards juveniles.  Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, however, was written for older readers and was made into a popular movie.   In this take on Cinderella the magic flows from the gift of obedience that is given to her by a fairy.  As you can imagine this gift complicates life for Cinderella and is something she must overcome.  To spice things up various mythical creatures such as elves, ogres, gnomes and giants were incorporated into the tale.

Recent Cinderella spin offs are:  Cinderella is evil (2020) by Jamie Campell (tells story from viewpoint of Cinderella's sister), Creating Cinderella (2020) by  K.A. Mitimore (Twelve retold stories by twelve different authors), Cinderella is Dead by  (2020) Kalynn Bayron (Two hundred years after Cinderella found her prince a new generation of teen girls attend an annual ball) and, of course, Ardennia (release date October 5, 2021).

Ardennia, in a nutshell, captures the magic, brutality and earthiness of the age of chivalry as it chronicles the many adventures and tribulations of Cinderella’s prince.  It uses the same point of view as The Prince’s Diary, but adds original tales about pixies, trolls, dwarves, fairies and nymphs.  It also has secondary and tertiary love stories that feature a buffoon and a hunchback.  In addition Ardennia brings to life an amazing number of memorable medieval characters that include a bean counter who wagers his gold tooth in a dice game, a merchant who can never be too prosperous, a band of female brigands, pilgrims that argue over who is the most pious, a cobbler who has come into the possession of a goose that lays golden eggs, a hermit who is mistaken for a hobgoblin and a beggar who has been cursed with leprosy for committing all the cardinal sins.

What makes Ardennia unique is that it adheres to the following tenent:  There is much that is magical in this world, but hardly any real magic to be had.  This nuance allows for a great deal of realism in my novel and keeps the magic – most of the time – at the periphery of the action. 

"You are about to become a very wealthy buffoon"

A Cinderella story like no other, Ardennia is a young adult historical fantasy that captures the magic, brutality and earthiness of the medieval age. This first book in a series chronicles the many adventures of Cinderella's prince as he undergoes his baptism of fire in the Battle of Paris, is charmed by Cinderella at a masquerade ball, and sets off on a quest to find her after she flees the ball at the midnight hour. The quest takes him through strange lands supposedly inhabited by ogres, pixies, hobgoblins, man-eating plants and giants, and peopled by extraordinary characters that include an epileptic bard, a bean counter who wagers his gold tooth in a dice game, a merchant who can never be too prosperous, a little girl who has a running feud with three bears, pilgrims that argue over who is the most pious and a beggar who has been cursed with leprosy for committing all the cardinal sins. Be on the look-out for a bit of Chaucer-like satire in this adapted fairy tale.

Five Reasons to read Ardennia:

5. The ironic ending
4. The love affair between Cinderella's stepmother and the hunchback
3. Sir Guy's story of the elf and the troll
2. Queen Bernadette's sagacity
1. Prince Henry's tete-a-tetes with the 14 ladies who attended the ball

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