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Fairy tales have been the traditional mode of passing on moral lessons especially from the older to the young. For centuries, communities around the world have used these tales as instructional lessons in the hope of creating a morally upright society. The ultimate result of this is the occurrence of multiple versions of the same fairy tale, which implies that one of the versions is superior compared to the others.
The story of Cinderella is one of the tales that have several versions among them the American version, The Algonquin Cinderella and the Vietnam version Tam and Cam. Given that this is a fairy tale, the writers should acknowledge this fact and give the impression of a fairy tale in their narrative. This piece of work compares these two versions and evaluates them with the aim of understanding them better and ultimately passing a verdict on which of the two works is superior or inferior to the other as a fairy tale.
Beginning and ending
One of the distinguishing characteristic of fairy tales is their beginning and their ending. The American version of this story, just as the Vietnam version, adopts the same beginning clause of indefinite time. The phrase “there was once” (Ford and Ford 193, 194) expresses the indefinite timing used in fairy tales.
The ending of the tales is also to some extend similar. In fairy tales, good always overcomes evil, something that both tales acknowledge. Furthermore, just like the American version, the Vietnam version of the story presents a “happy ever after” kind of life for the protagonist.
Despite all these similarities in the beginning and ending, the fate of the antagonists in both tales creates a significant difference. In the American version, the fate of the two evil sisters was just a failure in achieving personal goals i.e. marrying the invisible one (Perrault 122).
On the other hand, the Vietnam version presents a painful end of the antagonist i.e. abnormal death. Cam in this story dies after burning under boiling water while the stepmother dies because of a possible heart attack after eating her daughter’s flesh (Ford and Ford 200). This difference makes the Vietnam version more superior as a fairy tale since it provides for retribution by the protagonist- an important aspect of a fairy tale.
Good and Evil
Another outstanding characteristic of fairy tales is that the storyline revolves around good and evil, with the ultimate goal of good overcoming evil. Both versions of the tale begin with a seemingly undisputable rule of evil, which good could at no time defeat.
This begins with the persistent arrogance of Cinderella’s sisters in the American version and the evilness of Tam’s stepmother and stepsister in the Vietnams version (Perrault 120, Ford and Ford 194). Just like all fairy tales, both storylines present a test that evil can by no means pass and thus at the end of the story regardless of the gravity of the evilness of the antagonist, the protagonist manages to overcome. In this aspect, the two versions qualify as fairy tales.
It is common for fairy tales to involve supernatural beings in the storyline. This has not gone ignored in these two versions. The roles of the supernatural being in fairy tale are, to set a standard that only the protagonist can achieve, and to help the protagonist to achieve that standard. Both versions succeed in achieving the first role.
In the American version, the implication is that, the supernatural being- invisible one is only visible to the good. The Vietnams version also accomplishes this goal since Buddha gave the ornamented saddle that could only fit Tam- the protagonist, which later qualifies her as queen.
Unlike the Vietnam version, the American version fails to acknowledge what fairy tales acknowledge; that the success of the protagonist is dependent on some supernatural being or fate. This version shows personal efforts and self-will of the protagonist as the only requirement for his success. This implication appears, as Cinderella had to make personal efforts to clothe herself, and walk to the lakeside.
Unlike the American version, the Vietnams version acknowledges this fact. Tam could not have attended the king’s festival had Buddha not intervened. First, he helped her sort the rice, and then gave her clothing and finally the greatly ornamented shoe (Ford and Ford 197). All these were divine interventions to make Tam successful. This aspect again makes the Vietnams version more superior.
Norm dictates that fairy tales employ a lot of figurative language, and one of the most used figures of speech is imagery. The American version uses this figure of speech intensely in the storyline. First, is visual imagery created as the writer describes the village in which the happenings take place (Ford and Ford 193).
He also uses sound imagery as the he describes how Cinderella’s sisters shouted, hooted, and yelled with the intention of making her stay. The use of direst speech also as the sister to the invisible one converse with the aspirants also creates an aspect of sound imagery.
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Just like the American version, the Tam and cam story employs a lot of imagery. First is when Cam tells Tam to wash her hair in the pond for she had stained with mud. Another used type of figurative language that the Tam story employs is the use of songs in addressing the bong fish- a very common figure of speech in fairy tales. Again, when the rooster calls to Tam “cock-a-doodle- do,” and when the loom speaks “klick klack”, are other aspects of sound imagery.
Fairy tales adopt the method of personification whereby animals or non-living things have the ability to speak and behave as humans. Unlike the American version that ignores this, the Vietnam version uses a lot of personification that is evident throughout the story. In the first instance, the rooster is able to speak human language asking for a bowl of rice in exchange for the fish bones (Ford and Ford 196).
Another time is when the bird in the king’s palace is able to speak giving instructions as to where the kings clothes should be hanged (Ford and Ford 198) and the thi fruit that could understand human language. In this aspect of language use, this version stands out as more superior a tale than the American version, which avoided this language.
One of the greatest factors that make fairy tales what they are; fairy tales, is their far from reality scenarios, majorly magic. The American version of this story terribly fails to acknowledge this fact. The only instance in the whole story where magic appears is when Cinderella’s scars vanished and her hair grew after bathing (Perrault 121).
This ‘magic’ can relate to real life given technology and therefore does not really pass as magic. On the contrary, in the story of Tam, magic is rampant. First, the presence of the bong fish in the creel while they had collected shrimp and crabs was pure magic. The speaking fowl, the sparrows separating rice, the miniature horse, the fine clothes, the speaking vang anh bird and the thi fruit (Ford and Ford 199), are all nothing but magic. Therefore, the story of Tam passes more as a tale compared to the American version.
Indefinitely, fairy tales have the norm of using a particular set of main characters i.e. a set of three or a set of seven. These two numbers are in fact a requirement for fairy tales. The two tales under discussion seem to agree on this point. The American version gives us three main characters namely, Cinderella and her two sisters.
The Tam story on the other hand gives us three main characters namely: Tam, Cam and Tam’s stepmother. In this aspect, the two stories pass as fairy tales since they both acknowledge this fact. However, another aspect of fairy tales, as discussed above, in which the American version fails terribly, is the use of animals and non-living being as characters and therefore, it fails the test of characters as a fairy tale.
The fact that these two versions pose as fairy tales dictates that any form of realism in the narration is failure to acknowledge the facts on the ground. This means that the narrative must pass the moral lessons without embracing real life scenarios. The writer of the American version seems oblivious of this and that is why the piece of work falls more as a psychological paper than a fairy tale.
The writer of Tam and Cam seems to have appreciated this fact and thus the success of his piece of work as a fairy tale. The key here is; if the writer is writing a fairy tale, let him appreciate the unrealistic aspects of fairy tales before embarking on the task of writing one.
Ford, Marjorie, and John Ford. Dreams and Inward Journeys: A Rhetoric and Reader for Writers. NY: Longman Publishing Group, 2009.
Perrault, Charles. Cinderella and Other Tales from Perrault. NY: Henry Holth & Co., 1989.