Everyone knows the story “Cinderella”—or at least, they should. After all, different versions of the fairy tale exist all over the world. Today though, I want to look at the European version. If you’ve never heard of Cinderella, here’s a brief synopsis: a young orphaned girl is enslaved by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and the prince of the land throws a ball for all the maidens of the land to find a wife. Cinderella’s step-family prevents her from going, but her fairy godmother gives her what she needs to go. Cinderella and the prince fall in love, but Cinderella needs to leave before the prince knows anything about her, and she loses her shoe in the process. The prince searches for the maiden who can wear the shoe, and he finds Cinderella. They marry and live happily ever after.
It is a beautiful story. It doesn’t really matter how someone tells the tale either. The best part of the story for me is how it illustrates redemption through the characters of the Prince, the King, and the fairy godmother, the relation between Cinderella and her step-family, and the relationship between Cinderella and the Prince. “Cinderella” is an allegory for the story of how God sent His Son to rescue His church from sin and death.
Three of the most important characters in “Cinderella” are the three characters that are, for the most part, in the background—the King, the Prince, and Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The role of each of these characters contributes to the redemption allegory. The King is the one who decides to give a ball and invite every young lady in the land. If we focused on the fact that the King gave the ball and thereby initiates the plot, we would see that he could be considered to be are representation (or type) of God the Father. In the story of redemption, the Father is the one who has everything planned and brings everything about. “For I know the thoughts I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (The Reformation Study Bible, Jer. 29.11). If one were to read the Bible closely, one would see the hand of God working throughout to bring about His will. Another, more obvious similarity is that the King rules over his kingdom, just as God the Father rules over all creation. Psalm 47.2 states, “For the LORD Most High is awesome;/ He is a great King over all the earth.” The King is also the Prince’s father. If one thinks of the Prince as a representation of Christ, then the relationship between the King and the Prince mirrors the relationship between God the Father and Christ.
The next role to look at then is the Prince. Depending on which version one reads, the Prince either doesn’t do much aside from take a liking to Cinderella and instigating a search for her, or he goes to look for her himself. The first is probably the most common, but I would like to consider the second role in the context of the redemption story. Christ, obeying the will of the Father, took the sins of His church upon Himself and was punished in our place. He was crucified, taking our curse upon Himself that we might be saved. He rescues us from eternal death and our slavery to sin. The Prince in “Cinderella,” whom I consider to be a representation of Christ, does not die to save his beloved (which would’ve made the fairy tale a much better allegory of the story of redemption); however, the Prince does look for his bride all over the land. He leaves the palace and all of the luxuries that he has there to travel all over the kingdom, presumably visiting not only the houses of the wealthy, but also those of the poor, trying to find Cinderella. He rescues Cinderella from her step-family. Another similarity, which my father pointed out, is that Christ seeks after and calls His people to Him. In John 10.11, He says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” One example of a good shepherd is found in Luke 15.1-7, when Christ is using parables to explain to the Pharisees why He spends time with sinners and the joy that is in heaven when a sinner is saved. The shepherd in the parable, when one of his sheep is lost, goes to search for it, leaving his other sheep while he looks. Christ, as the good Shepherd, seeks His sheep when they are lost. Cinderella’s Prince searches for her just as diligently as Christ seeks out His lost sheep.
I feel slightly iffy about this one because the fairy godmother is a woman; however, I think that the fairy godmother’s role represents what the Holy Spirit does in the story of redemption. In “Cinderella”, the fairy godmother enables Cinderella to go to the ball by changing mice into horses, rags into ball gowns, pumpkins into carriages, and shoes into slippers of glass. Since Cinderella can go to the ball with the fairy godmother’s help, she is able to meet the Prince, her future husband. The allegory is not perfect because Cinderella must leave at midnight, but the basic idea is there. The Holy Spirit enables us to come to Christ by regenerating us. He changes us from people who would avoid God at all costs to people who seek Him. While speaking to Nicodemus on the subject of being born again, Christ states, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3.5). This means that unless the Spirit works in the hearts of men so that instead of them loving darkness and hating light, as it says in John 3.19-20, they will love the light, which is Christ, and believe. Frequently, this change is represented by clothing. In Zechariah 3.3-5, Joshua, the high priest at the time, is shown in a vision as wearing “filthy garments,” but when God pardons Joshua, his dirty clothes are exchanged for clean ones, to show his new status as pardoned by God. The beginning of Cinderella’s way to a new life is fittingly depicted as the fairy godmother changing her rags into a beautiful ballgown. The King, the Prince, and the fairy godmother are the most important characters, as they represent the Triune God, but in order for the allegory to be complete, we must understand the reason for the need for redemption, and we can do this by looking at Cinderella, her stepmother, and Cinderella’s two stepsisters.
Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters are commonly described as evil, and Cinderella is practically a slave to her step-family. The relationship between Cinderella and her step-family is almost an allegory for the relationship of a sinner to sin. In John 8.34, Christ, while speaking to the Jews, says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8.34). Sinners hide in darkness, for they hate the light of God because they are slaves to sin and death, as noted in John 3.20. The stepmother and stepsisters could be considered as representations of sin, death, and darkness. They do their best to keep Cinderella enslaved to them, away from the ball, where she will meet her rescuer, but the fairy godmother enables Cinderella to go. Next the step-family attempts to hide her, but the Prince comes to rescue her from her slavery to her step-family. Similarly, Satan attempts to keep us enslaved to sin and death and hidden in darkness. God, in His mercy and love, changes our hearts, filling us with a desire to know and love Him, redeeming us and cleansing us with His blood and sacrifice. Thereby Satan is defeated, as are the stepmother and stepsisters. As Christ states, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8.36).
Cinderella, then, as the bride of the Prince, is a representation of the church, the bride of Christ. Once enslaved to sin, death, and darkness, the church is now free of the bonds of sin and death and is given new life in Christ, and like any wife should, serves her Husband who loves her. Cinderella, as we noted before, was enslaved to her step-family, and then set free by the Prince. Although we do not know what happened after Cinderella and the Prince married, we can reasonably assume that Cinderella serves the Prince because she loves him and honors him, as the church loves and honors Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, relates marriages to the relationship between Christ and the church, just as the Cinderella story seems to do. Paul writes, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5.24-26).
This brings me to the final point—the relationship of the Prince and Cinderella. I won’t repeat myself, as I already went over some of the important parts of their relationship, but there is more to add on the topic. Cinderella did not really know the Prince, as many may have remarked. I find this to be one of the most interesting parts because the church cannot understand Christ completely. After all, He is infinite and incomprehensible. Paul writes in Romans 11.33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out!” We will eternally be learning more and more about Him, but we will never understand God completely. In a similar way, Cinderella will be learning things about her husband throughout her marriage to him, although she will probably come closer to comprehending him than we could ever get to understanding God.
Although the allegory is not perfect, especially since there are different versions of “Cinderella,” if one looks at the roles of the King, the Prince, and the fairy godmother, as well as the roles of Cinderella and her step-family and their relationship, and the relationship between Cinderella and the Prince, the fairy tale is a beautiful illustration of the redemption story. The King, the Prince, and the fairy godmother all play roles that could represent those of the Triune God. Cinderella and her step-family symbolize the relationship between a sinner, sin, death, and darkness, and the relationship between Cinderella and the Prince is like that of Christ and His church. All these factors are part of what redeemed this fairy tale for me; after hearing it over and over again, too many times in my opinion, it’s allegorical value finally said, “Hello, I’m here!”
“‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
~ Revelation 19.7-8, New King James Version
May God be with you and bless you this week, and thank you for reading!
The Reformation Study Bible. New King James Version, general editor*, R. C. Sproul, Reformation Trust Publishing/Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2016/1982.
*General editor means that one is the main editor of the study notes, not the actual text of the Bible.