Assepoes, een lied van vertrouwen
The return of Cinderella, living an everyday life: a mesmerizing and moving story
The Grimm Brothers’ story of Cinderella is cursory. Mother dies and Father takes a new wife. The story doesn’t tell us what life was like before Mother died. How Father can come under the spell of a woman who is so cruel to his daughter, why Father takes no notice of the humiliations Cinderella suffers, remain untold. In fact, there is much in this story which remains undiscussed. For example, what sort of person is this prince who is looking for a wife? Is it right for a girl to marry a foreign prince just like that?
Pamela Koevoets poses all these questions. In her Assepoes, she describes in language somewhere between prose and poetry, how happy the family was when all was still going well. How they danced. What fine, quality merchandise her father sold. And how unhappy father and daughter were when Mother was no longer there, how powerless they were to comfort one another. How much more went wrong than that, for their country also went to war, father couldn’t carry on trading any longer and had to look for other means to earn their keep. All at once, fairytale characters turn out to have everyday problems and feelings to contend with. Cinderella’s father is a man with longings, defenceless in the face of his new wife’s charms. Cinderella is, and remains of course, a good and sweet-natured girl, but we also see that she finds this very hard, that she has to do her best not to become hardened and bitter.
Koevoets keeps to the Grimm story, but she no longer pretends that everything can just be taken for granted. In her story she lets real people go astray. This produces an unexpected tension. Will the prince, bowled over by the favours of so many girls at once, as any boy would be, recognise Cinderella as the real thing? This book shows clearly what a hard time sensitive children have in the world of fairy stories. It’s no easy matter having to rise each day from the ashes. But it happens here, before our eyes.
Marjoleine de Vos