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December 1, 1999
The New Cinderella:
From Glass Slippers to Combat Boots

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Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, lived an intelligent and creative girl named Cinderella. Her mother, sadly, died when she was very young, at which time, her father remarried. Her father's new wife had three daughters all older than Cinderella, and, although they were well meaning, they did not understand their new sister well.

Every day, after Cinderella had finished her chores around the house, she would walk through the kingdom, meeting all the people and observing what was happening. Every evening, while her sisters went to hang out with all the other teenagers at the local diner, she would stay in her room, or go to the library, reading and writing about all she was learning. Sometimes, with her friends, she would talk all night on the library steps about the king, and how his power was unjust, and not representative of the people.

Vocabulary Box

treatise - a long and involved essay
consensus - an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole
Phoenix - a bird in Egyptian mythology that lived in the desert for 500 years and then consumed itself by fire, later to rise renewed from its ashes
rappelled - the act or method of descending from a high places by a rope

"Cinderella, Cinderella!" her stepsisters would cry. "Get a perm! Put on make-up! Change out of those frumpy clothes! Don't you know that you'll never get a boyfriend looking like that? If you are not careful, you will end up like that strange old woman we see wandering around here all alone at night."

Cinderella was saddened by the things her stepsisters had said. Like everyone else, she really wanted to be loved. "But if I paint my face, dress in fancy clothes, and pretend to be something I'm not, any boyfriend I get will love someone who's not really me! Don't I deserve to be loved for myself?!"

Her sisters laughed. "Men aren't interested in that sort of thing! They want tight clothes and fancy hairstyles! And stop talking about all those serious and boring things like freedom and government by and for the people. Don't you know that the handsome prince is looking for a bride? I'm sure one of us will win his heart at the upcoming ball!"

Her sisters spent weeks preparing for the big ball. Little did they know that Cinderella, too, was preparing. She wrote a powerful treatise on the right people have to government, one which represents their beliefs and ideas. Moreover, her treatise encouraged everyone in the land to protest their king peacefully, and to call for democratic elections to be held. Her writing was so moving, and her opinion so valid, that anyone who read the pamphlet she produced was sure to be convinced that a peaceful revolution was at hand.

The night of the ball came, and her step-sisters set off for the royal palace, glittering in jewels and fancy gowns. Cinderella sat alone on her porch, tears in her eyes. She had made up all these flyers, but now she was alone and scared, not knowing what to do.

"What's up with those tears?" a voice asked. She looked up and into the face of the strange old lady--the one who is forever seen walking around all alone at night. Up close, she did not seem so strange or so old. "Ya know, there's that big gala ball goin' down right about now. You're a pretty girl, don't you wanna take a chance at winning the heart of the handsome prince?"

"Prince, smince!" Cinderella almost spat in anger. "I'm tired of being ruled by an absolute monarch, one who tries to appease the people by having some stupid ball, while the real problems of the land get ignored!"

Cinderella realized that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be spewing anti-government rhetoric to some woman she didn't even know. "Who are you?" she asked.

The woman laughed happily. "Let's just say that I'm your fairy godmother, ok? Whatcha doin' tonight?"

Cinderella hesitated a bit before deciding to show the old woman the flyers she had made. "I wanted to post them all over town, but I'm afraid of going to jail!" explained Cinderella while handing her one to read.

"Excellent!" exclaimed the old woman. "We'll need to make more copies, and something has to be done about those frumpy clothes!" With a wave of her hand, Cinderella's blue jeans and T-shirt were transformed into a complete set of black army fatigues, which included a harness around her waist, combat boots on her feet, and a staple gun in her hand.

"Just a little trick I learned hanging out with the anarchists in Berkley," the old woman shrugged. "Let's go!" she shouted as she grabbed Cinderella's hand, leading her through the streets, stopping only for the light posts and billboards, on which they stapled copies of her flyer. Suddenly, she turned a corner and pulled Cinderella through a door and down into a basement room. There they found a dozen men and women all dressed in black working busily on a huge banner that read "POWER TO THE PEOPLE! Demand Free Elections!"

Everyone read Cinderella's flyer and welcomed her to the group. Someone went to make thousands of copies of it-on recycled paper, of course. They all had funny names like Fox and Wolf and Bear. "You can't use your real name!" they exclaimed to Cinderella. "If the police hear us over their CBs, they will find out who you really are !"

In the midst of the hum and buzz, a sweet woman named Lichen piped up and said, "Cinder is what is left after a fire, but you don't want to be reduced to ashes by the revolution. Let's call you Phoenix instead!"

And so all was decided. They then all sat down to plan, by consensus, how the events of the night would unfold. With a mischievous grin, Fox asked Cinderella: "Are you afraid of heights?" to which she did not answer, but only gazed perplexingly at him.

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The heroic cinderella-turned-Phoenix rises above her kingdom and creates a revolution!
Soon, and with lightning speed, they all made their way to the palace, from which music and laughter streamed. Since they were not allowed in, all the poor and the minorities of the kingdom sat listening outside, under the night sky. While one woman stood guard, and others in the group passed out the flyers to people, Fox and Cinderella, (known now as Phoenix), hurried up the fire escape that was attached to the palace.

They crossed the roof to the courtyard. Below, thousands of women were vying for the prince's hand, and politicians were kissing up to the king to win his favor. On the CB, Fox confirmed that the get-away vehicle would be passing by on the other side of the palace in exactly five minutes. "We have to be quick!" he said. Phoenix and Fox quickly clipped the harnesses that were around their waists onto a strong wire that ran across the top of the courtyard.

Light as air, Phoenix let go of the wall and went zipping across the courtyard, 100 feet in the air, and like a rain from a cloud, she sprinkled her flyers on the people below. Fox followed, opening up the huge banner for all to read. The people below began cheering and chanting, "Power to the people! We demand free elections!"

"After them!" screamed the chief of the royal guard.

Leaving the banner, they quickly unclipped from the wire and rappelled down the other side of the palace wall. The get-away vehicle waited just beyond the gates. Fox and Phoenix sprinted across the lawn and climbed up the tall gates. A security guard caught hold of Phoenix's foot, yanking off one of her boots while almost pulling her down off the wall. "Come on, Phoenix!" Fox shouted, grabbing her arm. Twisting loose from the guard, Phoenix jumped free into the waiting car.

The next day, Cinderella awoke in her bed, wondering if it was all a dream. Through the wall, she could hear her sisters talking about the amazing thing that had happened at the ball the night before. "A peaceful revolution has begun!" they said. "Maybe Cinderella isn't so crazy after all!"

Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door. "Open up! Police!"

At the door stood a group of police officers, carrying the lost boot. "The woman who fits this boot is Phoenix, a traitor to his Majesty; she will, when we find her, be put to death. The king has ordered that this boot be tried on every woman in the kingdom."

Nervously, one stepsister at a time tried on the boot. Meanwhile, Cinderella attempted to slip out the back door, unnoticed. "Stop her!" shouted the police chief. "You! Put on this boot!" She struggled in the grasp of the two policemen who managed to force the boot onto her foot, only to discover, much to the officers' delight, a perfect fit.

When word got out that Cinderella was the famous Phoenix, and that she was under arrest, the entire kingdom took to the streets. Those who didn't know her from her time walking around the kingdom, or from her late night talks at the library, knew her from the magnificent flyers that were posted all over town; those that had rained down the night before on those who attended royal ball. She was a national heroine!

From inside her prison cell, Cinderella could hear the crowds chanting and yelling. "We demand representation. Free Cinderella! Free Phoenix! We demand a government by and for the people! Down with the king!" Fox and the Fairy Godmother slipped up to the window of her cell to pass in chocolate candies, pens, and paper. "How you doin'?" they asked, genuinely concerned.

After they were assured that Cinderella was fine, they told her, "Don't worry, we'll get you out. But until then, keep writing. The people want to hear more of what you have to say!" With that, Fox slipped her a quick kiss and they disappeared.

Meanwhile, the king stared out of the windows of the palace in fear. "Bring this Phoenix woman to me right now!" he demanded.

"For your life to be spared Phoenix, you must tell the people to stop protesting, and to go back to work. They will only listen to you!" he begged of her.

"I would sooner die than betray the people!" Cinderella spat back.

"I see that you are a strong woman. You would make a fine ruler. I will give you the hand of my son the handsome prince. Through him, you can rule the entire kingdom, and have hundreds of servants to grant your every wish. You cannot refuse such an offer! Please, just tell the people to end this insanity!"

"Your Majesty, I am sorry, but I cannot accept this offer. You see, I believe in a different form of government, where the people have the power to choose their leaders, and to change them when they wish." Cinderella then sat down in front of the king, and gave her best, wisest, and most impassioned speech ever. She explained that the people must be heard. She explained how having power "with" others, instead of power "over" others could lead to greater achievements and a more prosperous country.

After hours of speaking, the King sat silently, deep in thought. Cinderella was escorted back to her cell where she was able to hear the people outside, continuing to demand for her release. She sat down on the floor of her cell and wrote with the pens and paper that her supporters sneaked to her. Intermittently, one of her supporters would take from her what she finished writing through her cell's window, and read it out aloud to the people; writings that eventually were copied and widely distributed for all to read.

The mayhem went on all night, and Cinderella wrote until dawn. When the guards came, she was led to the gallows, where she was to be publicly hung for treason. The crowds cheered to her, and threatened to storm the castle and to resort to violence to save her.

The king, from above, hushed the crowd and made this declaration:

"People of my kingdom, I am an old man, who has all my life known only what it is to be a king. Before us now stands Phoenix, a wise and strong woman who has taught me many things. Like you, I have read her words. Like you, I have heard her speeches, and like you, I have been moved. So she could become Queen, I offered Phoenix the hand of my son in marriage, but she refused me. What I now realize, seeing you all, is that she is but one voice in the crowd. My kingdom is filled with intelligent and trustworthy men and women who are able and worthy of ruling this great land. And so, at your demand, and in the interest of the entire kingdom, Phoenix will be set free. To follow, a new constitution will be written, and a new government will be created, one that rises out from the people, like a Phoenix out from the fire."

That night, the entire kingdom celebrated. The palace doors were thrown open to rich and poor alike. Speeches were given and people began to freely exchange ideas. The stepsisters began to listen to all that the revolutionaries had to say. The handsome prince admitted that he really didn't want to rule the kingdom anyway. He confessed that he had always dreamed of being a model for L.L. Bean. And Fox and Cinderella went back to their old tricks, showing off on the zip wire above the crowds, and, in the process, of course, began to fall deeply in love. Because all fairy tales have to end with love, right?


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


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