Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkinification IX: Cinderella's Coach

"The pumpkin is perhaps the vegetable most beloved by the creators of juvenile literature. We all remember the pumpkin coach in 'Cinderella.' " --The Annotated Mother Goose, by William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould.
"Cinderella" is arguably one of the most popular fairy tales of all time; there are literally hundreds of variants of the story from every region of the world, and Cinderella goes by dozens of different names. In its barest bones, a poor but good girl arises out of her wretched circumstances to find happiness and acclaim. The addition of a pumpkin turned into a coach (a luxury conveyance, only affordable by the rich) first appears in Charles Perrault's 1697 collection of stories, Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé), subtitled Tales of Mother Goose (Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye), where it is called "Cendrillon."
This godmother of hers, who was a fairy, said to her, "You wish that you could go to the ball; is it not so?"

"Yes," cried Cinderella, with a great sigh.

"Well," said her godmother, "be but a good girl, and I will contrive that you shall go." Then she took her into her chamber, and said to her, "Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin."

Cinderella went immediately to gather the finest she could get, and brought it to her godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could help her go to the ball. Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind. Having done this, she struck the pumpkin with her wand, and it was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.

—"Cinderella," Charles Perrault, 1697.
"Cinderella" has been retold and adapted dozens of times, in plays and movies and on TV. There are very few long running series that do not have a Cinderella episode.
So popular is the story that there are actually two real-life varieties of pumpkins named after it. The Cinderella pumpkin is an heirloom variety from France also known as Rouge vif d'Etampes. It is a deeply ridged, exceptionally flattened fruit that can grow to weigh 25-35 lbs.
The Fairytale pumpkin has a deeply lobed, slightly squat shape and a magnificent mahogany brown color. It is similar to the Cinderella but more deeply ribbed, with a thick, strong handle.
The pumpkin coach has been goofed on many times. In John Bellairs' The Face in the Frost, the wizard Roger Bacon turns an over-ripe tomato into "the kind of coach you would expect...a large sagging purse of red leather on prickly green wheels." On Rocko's Modern Life the fairy godmother turns a rat tied to a potato into--a bigger rat and potato, that Rocko and Cinderheffer ride off on. In Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad, Magrat Garlick has to turn a coach into a pumpkin, to try to save Emberella from an unwanted date with a slimy Duke. And of course a transformed onion carries Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey away to Happily Ever After.

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