Ruth Bottigheimer defines a rise tale as a “sub-genre of the fairy tale in which an impoverished protagonist first secures a marriage through magic and then acquires wealth.” In “Cinderella,” Cinderella, though she begins as a wealthy girl, spends most of her life impoverished and constantly working for her step-family. She is verbally abused and neglected for most of her adolescence. However, she achieves marriage to the prince through several magical events brought upon by her dead mother, who manifests through the tree Cinderella planted above her grave years before. In marrying her Prince Charming, she then acquires wealth because she marries a prince. In the fairy tale world, this motif runs rampant. Kind, compassionate woman plus a little, or a lot, of magic equals fairy tale ending in which both love and wealth are attained.
In “Cinderella,” magic directly leads to marriage because without it, Cinderella never would have met the Prince. However, this does not necessarily occur in the real-world, depending on the time period. In sixteenth century Europe, where marriage was the main way through which women grew in wealth and power, magic most likely directly facilitated marriage. Given, the magic I speak of here is not the same as in the story of Cinderella. In “Cinderella,” the dress and shoes falling from the tree were inexplicable phenomena that Cinderella had no control over. However, in Medieval times, women used their own magic to attract men. This type of magic was not the inexplicable phenomena I mentioned earlier, but rather the sexual prowess that women exuded in order to catch the eye of their future husbands. Their magic consisted of altering their physical appearance through clothing and hair styles, along with saying just the right thing at the right time to the right person. Women’s magic then directly led to marriage due to the fact that most marriages were arranged at that time, but in order to ensure that men would come through on their agreements, women had to make said men unconsciously desire them. They used sex appeal to attract their husbands and subsequently gain wealth through marriage.
Today, this is not the case, especially in America. Though women do utilize their sexual appearance in order to attract men, this does not guarantee marriage anymore. Rather, women initially attract men through appearance, but it is their personalities and compatibilities with their partners that will most likely lead to long-term commitment. Thus, the magic that women employ only indirectly affects marriage, if it even does that. Contrarily, men may employ the same means that women employ today to attract partners, therefore completely contradicting every aspect of the Cinderella story. Also, in contrast to utilizing magic and marriage to achieve wealth, in today’s society, women more often than not find other ways to acquire wealth than committing themselves to wealthy men. Instead, they support themselves financially more often than not because women today are more independent of others than they were in yesteryear. Today, we see women like Carly Fiorina who are self-made; it is she who is solely given credit for her success in a fortune 500 company. So no, this idea of “rags to riches through magic and marriage” is not realistic today because marriage is no longer a viable means of acquiring power and wealth.