I was fascinated to learn that the name “Cinderella” had come, in fact, from the word “cinder — which was commonly used at the time the story was invented. (The word “cinder” actually means “a piece of partly burned coal or wood.”) I hadn’t heard of the word “cinder” before, so it was exciting to learn both a new word and the origin of the name of a cherished fairy tale.
Oh, the beauty of fairy tales! I’d always felt that fairy tales added an element of magic to life, and it was tragic when schools stopped teaching them (for the most part). ”People were more intelligent when they were raised on fairy tales,” I hypothesized, “because fairy tales teach us how to dream.” Sadly, a world without fairy tales is an impoverished world indeed, and this kind of impoverishment is often overlooked in discussions of poverty.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that Germany was the first country to consider fairy tales worthy of study — because there was a fairy-tale element deep in the German psyche, in the German language, and in many German eyes which led, invariably, back to Germany itself. Johann Jacob Bodmer (German-Swiss author, academic, critic, poet), in German-speaking Switzerland, had expressed similar sentiments: that fairies were “agents to awaken the imagination.”
Never was there a time that the imagination was more in need of being re-awakened, for in the modern era there exists a Germany (and the world beyond Germany) without fairy tales, a Germany that had set itself against the German people, a Germany with a lot of cinders but no Cinderella.