Music is wonderfully versatile. It can help us to teach and explore an endless range of topics, therefore encouraging young minds to listen hard, think inquisitively, and ask imaginative questions. Many brilliant stories have been set to music throughout time. Music helps to bring them alive, to make them memorable, and also to help children to empathise with the characters. Cinderella is one such story! This post explores this timeless story and the music that accompanies it, with ideas for how to introduce it to your children at home.
Cinderella – Telling The Story
Cinderella is one of the best-loved fairy stories of all time. It has been retold for many centuries, with the most well-known version penned by the Brothers Grimm. Cinderella is a young girl whose mother dies, leaving her with just a father. He remarries a horrid woman, and Cinderella’s life is made torturous by her step-mother and two stepsisters.
The King throws a festival for his son, in the hope of finding a bride for the Prince. Every maiden in the land is invited, but Cinderella’s stepmother orders her to clean, forbidding her to come. Sadly, she goes to the graveyard, where a tree has grown at her mother’s grave. She wishes to be beautifully clothed, her wish is granted, and she goes to the ball. For three nights she dances with the Prince, always eluding him at the end of the night. On the final night, however, she leaves behind her golden slipper!
The Prince vow to marry the maiden whose foot fits the golden slipper! He sends his men to all the houses in the kingdom. The two stepsisters cut off part of their feet, in order to make it fit – but the Prince is not fooled. He finds Cinderella, and finally is able to marry her.
NOTE: In most retellings, it is Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother who grants her wish, and ensures that she goes to the ball!
The Cinderella Ballet
The story of Cinderella has been an inspiration for dozens of different composers. Probably the most famous scoring was a ballet, written by Prokofiev in 1945. This is quite comic in its nature, with the roles of the stepsisters often being played by men. The music is exciting, and the dancing is enchanting. For those of you who are familiar with the Disney film, this is more closely related to this, than to the Brothers Grimm version told above. It is a magical ballet, and therefore a brilliant one to take children to!
Introducing Cinderella to Your Child: A 5-Step Plan
Read the story
There are hundreds of versions of this story, with some beautiful children’s books in print. Try this one for children aged 2-4 years:
This is a great musical version, for children who are slightly older (3-6 years). The CD tells the story with sound effects and different voiceovers, to therefore make it more interactive:
For older children (9-11 years), and those not easily scared, try the Brothers Grimm version – this should be enough to get any pre-teens hooked!
Watch the Disney movies
There are two Disney films of Cinderella! One is a cartoon from 1950, which has a fantastic soundtrack – including songs such as:
– A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
This is a timeless Disney film, which will have your children all rooting for Cinderella, and furthermore singing along after just one viewing.
There is also a new Disney remake, released in 2015, starring Lily James. This live-action film follows the same plot line as the 1950 movie, while being a brilliant telling for older children. Cinderella’s transformation is truly magical!
Listen to the music from Cinderella
Listen to the Prokofiev ballet score. It is filled with leitmotifs – themes that recur and develop through the ballet. He represents Cinderella in three different ways – as sad and downtrodden, pure and thoughtful, and finally totally and completely in love! See if you and your child can identify each of these themes as you move through the music. Prokofiev also uses different themes for each of the other characters – the evil stepmother, the handsome prince, and the nasty stepsisters. Can you pick these out too?
Watch the ballet.
There is nothing quite like live performance to inspire children! Many ballet companies put this on as a regular part of their repertoire. It is suitable for children from around 6 years +.
Make Cinderella come alive
Pretend a ‘rags-to-riches’ afternoon! First of all, put on their old clothes, doing lots of chores (a great way to get your kids to make their beds, or tidy away their toys!) Transform into their finest outfits – ball gowns for the girls, and shirts for the boys. Put on a feast of lovely food and drinks, with lots of bright colours – your children have gone to the ball! Dance around the living room, perhaps even wearing masks to make you all unrecognisable. Charge around the garden as you run from the ball (burning off lots of childhood energy while you’re at it!) Finally, be sure to play Prokofiev’s music throughout, to really energise your fun-filled afternoon.