Cinderella has to be one of the most popular retellings in fiction and film, so today I'm just going to highlight a few favorites of mine. One common theme these retellings share is that Cinderella is not a passive, helpless creature waiting for her godmother to save her, and that the prince gets to know her FIRST, rather than just love at first sight in the ball.
Elle Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
I prefer YA to middle-grade, but this version of Cinderella is simply my favorite, hands down. The author has come up with a brilliant explanation for why Cinderella obeys her stepmother and stepsister like a servant. She is cursed from her birth with obedience: "If you tell me to chop off my head, I'd have to do it." Ella is such a delightful character--she's smart, brave, compassionate, and has a sense of humor. She might seem kind of Mary-Sue-ish, but she does act sneaky and resourceful sometimes, and besides, her determination to break the curse makes her sympathetic. Prince Charming--called Char here--is also very likable, with his down-to-earth personality. Supporting characters are memorable as well--gotta applaud Levine for creating Elle's father as a greedy merchant who's neither good nor evil. Throw in a mix of fantasy characters--gnomes, elves, ogres, giants, and a woefully misguided fairy godmother-- Elle Enchanted is, simply, the most enchanting (pardon the repetition) retelling of Cinderella I have ever come across.
Cinderella and the Colonel,
by K. M. Shea
I picked this up when browsing through Kindle Unlimited. I have to admit that the cover wasn't that enticing — it looks more like non-fiction or literary fiction to me — but the blurb was. Cinderella is a practical girl who works hard to keep her land and servants together, while fending off the attentions of the Colonel, who's a fun character as well. A light and enjoyable read, sprinkled with humor. I liked it so much that I searched for other books by Ms. Shea, and found her other retellings really good as well. I particularly enjoyed her latest retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Sci-fi usually isn't my thing, but this sounded like a really original endeavor so I gave it a try. Cinderella is a CYBORG living in futuristic China. She doesn't cook and clean, but instead has the reputation of being the best mechanic in town. When the prince drops by her shop to have his android fixed--sparks fly and the story unfolds. It's a really loose retelling, in which the romance takes a back seat to the threat of plague and an evil queen from the moon. I really enjoyed Meyer's writing style and creativity and characterization, but growing up immersed in Chinese culture, I wish she had done more research in this area. Cinder lives in New Beijing, so you could at least expect a reasonable number of Chinese characters, but the names I've come across are a bizarre mix of Vietnamese and Japanese (Linh, Kaito, Iko) and European. The Chinese culture background seems kind of flimsy, which is a pity, as the story is otherwise really well written and developed. Nevertheless, it didn't stop me from enjoying Cinder and devouring the second and third book in the series (Lunar Chronicles), which are based on Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. And I am eagerly waiting for the last book, Winter, which will be based on Snow White.
And now for movie adaptations!
Ever After (1998)
Wonderful adaptation starring Drew Barrymore. Cinderella is tomboyish and loves to read--two rather cliched personalities of heroines these days--but she is charming enough that it doesn't feel an obligation. There is no magic depicted; instead, Leonardo Da Vinci steps in the shoes of the fairy godmother. The prince, I feel, isn't that deserving of the heroine (though I think it's because of plot device), but hey, fairy-tale princes rarely have much personality. Cinderella more than makes up for his defect.
Not an evident adaptation of Cinderella, but the concept I'll rags-to-riches is the same. Betty, a poor shop girl, has a crush with the wealthy boss of the store she works at. She actually is the active one in the beginning, trying to attract the "prince" before he falls for her. It's a black-and-white silent film made in the 1920s, but who cares, the plot is great and the actors perfectly portrayed.