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Once upon a time, yes we are having another one of those stories. Why? Because that’s how they always start and it is just a way of telling you that you are about to hear a story, so that you settle down and listen.
Once upon a time there was a castle in the middle of a big town where Lord and Lady Avarici lived with their family. They had three daughters, Isabella, Coronella and Cinderella. So you think now you’ve heard the names that you know the story? Well, maybe so, but you’re probably wrong so keep listening.
The three sisters were all of marriageable age, which in the case of this type of story means anything over about twelve, but Isabella and Coronella were twins and they were a year older than Cinderella. That meant that the two older girls were expected to share everything and dress alike but she had lots of new clothes and shoes and jewellery all to herself. Cinderella was also naturally blonde and rather pretty, which she was quite fond of pointing out to people.
Like everyone who gets things without much effort, Cinderella really did not appreciate the value of her clothes and finery and she spent a lot of time in the castle kitchens sitting around the fireplace getting filthy as well as being in the way of the staff who all hated her. The exception was a page boy who fancied himself and thought if he sucked up to the boss’s daughter he might make a bit of money out of it.
Well, one day Lady Avarici heard that there was going to be a huge party and the Prince was going to be invited. Of course she needed her daughters to meet some eligible bachelors if she was ever going to get them married off. She bought them all lovely new clothes with matching outfits for the twins but Cinderella insisted on something much more elegant and expensive.
On the day of the ball Cinderella was hogging the bathroom when there was a “whoosh” and a very strange woman appeared in the twins’ bedroom. She wore ragged, black clothes, leaned on a stick, and was the hairiest person the girls had ever seen. She even had a beard!
“Who are you?” the twins asked, together, and the woman said: “I’m your Furry Godmother, of course!”
“Erm, shouldn’t you be more sort of, sparkly," said Isabella, "and wearing posher clothes?” said Coronella.
“That’s PR for you. It’s all image these days isn’t it? Well no, I’m a real magic worker and real magic isn’t pretty and twinkly, it’s hard-working and practical. I am here to grant you each a wish, so what do you want?”
The twins asked for five minutes to think it over. They huddled in a corner and compared notes then came back and announced: ”We would like to meet two nice young men tonight who will love us and make us good husbands, please.”
“Sounds simple enough,” the Godmother said and waved her stick over their heads. Nothing happened and the girls thought perhaps it was some sort of joke that Cinderella had arranged but they were polite and said thank you and the Godmother went away.
Later, at the party, Cinderella shone and caught the eye of the Prince who danced with her all evening and ended up asking her to marry him and she accepted without a moment’s thought.
The twins, however, spent a lot of time talking to two young lords from a neighbouring city, who were also twins and would one day share their parents’ wealth. They were not particularly handsome but they were kind and funny and fell instantly in love with the girls.
And so the twins got their wish. Within a year they were both married and living in a very large castle in the nearby town and they lived contentedly ever after with husbands who loved them and cherished them and believed them both to be beautiful.
Cinderella got her Prince and went off to live in the Palace in the capital city but it was a cold place and the Prince’s grandfather had gambled away much of the family wealth so there was no money to improve it.
And what did the Prince get? He married a beautiful but spoiled young woman who became very bitter when she realised he could not afford to buy her fine clothes and shoes and jewellery. And when she was bitter she was really rather ugly. So the Prince took up with the page boy, who, against all the odds, loved him for what he was and not what he owned.