• Talia + Emily

Cinderella, Psyche, and Anna: A reflection on our first two episodes

By Talia Smith

Cupid & Psyche and Cinderella. Two of the most influential love stories of all time. Two stories that are so similar to each other, it’s almost comical, looking back, that we aired them one after the other. Because these stories came out about six months ago, let's take a brief walk down memory lane!

The Myth of Cupid and Psyche, as seen in our first episode, “An Ancient Celebrity couple,” with Alison O’Brien follows the love story of Psyche, the most beautiful woman in the world, and Cupid, the son of Aphrodite. Cupid, for lack of a better term, tricks Psyche into living with him. Despite the odds stacked against them, Aphrodite’s deep disapproval, and a series of tests (one involving Psyche taking a trip to the underworld), they live happily ever after. Really though, listen to the episode- Alison does a fantastic job telling this story!

Cinderella is probably more familiar to us. Cinderella is manipulated by her “Evil Stepfamily” until her Fairy Godmother comes by, gives her a fancy dress, and sends her to a ball to meet a prince. At the stroke of midnight, Cinderella rushes back home, after dancing with the prince all night, before the fairy magic wears off and her step family learns she snuck out of the house. What the prince lacks in personality, he makes up for in a keen interest with women’s footwear. With a glass slipper as his only marker as to who the mysterious woman he danced with the night before, he goes on a hunt to find the woman who fits the shoe. He finds Cinderella, bla bla bla, happily ever after, the end. When Sam tells the Cinderella stories in episode two, she focuses on how the story has been adapted and found in nearly every culture. Again, give it a listen!

There are some GLARING similarities in this story. Both Cinderella and Psyche are considered great beauties who marry their “true love.” Both could do better (Cupid is kind of manipulative and The Prince is so boring he doesn't even have a name). Both deal with oppressive mother figures who are dead set in ruining the young protagonists life for their own vanity. And finally, both stories have been around for so long, they have inevitably influenced the way love and romance are interpreted today.

And yet, with all their glaring similarities, I don’t want to write something academic. I decided to write something fun; god knows we need more joy in our lives. I had so many ideas … and then I had a thought. I have a story.

La mia Bisnonna

Based on the oral histories given to me by my relatives.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the bits and pieces I have heard from various relatives over the years and is by no means a 100% accurate account.

Once upon a time, in a small village in southern Italy, lived a loving family: my family. The terracotta roofs and stone houses, with their flower covered balconies, created an air of majesty in the small, mountain village. La famiglia Crescitelli, my ancestors, were prominent in their antique community. One member, Alberico, was a Catholic Priest, a martyr, who would eventually be sainted. His name would live on in the little town as would our family. La nostra piccola famiglia Crescitelli of which this story is based, consists of hard working parents with their five children. Anna, the youngest daughter, had large brown eyes, thick dark hair, and a sly smile. While their life was not as difficult as others, it was not easy either. This was the turn of the previous century after all. Every morning, Anna would walk down a steep hill with her buckets in hand to collect water for her household, and climb back up again. Her house in the village was large and warm, with a patio fit for a garden and a few animals. Just a stone's throw away from the church and la piazza. Life was ideal- it was the tales you read about, it was one to make you wonder why anyone would ever leave the Italian Countryside for the new world.

Then tragedy struck. Anna’s beloved mother, Angelina, passed away, leaving behind her five young and beloved children. Anna was barely five years old, and her little brother, not even three. I don’t know how or why her mother passed away, but her death would deeply affect the futures of her children. Anna’s father wasted no time marrying again, although this was a common practice in the day. You see, his new wife was widowed and had daughters of her own. They needed each other and blending their families was the most effective way to support all involved. Because of this turn of events, Anna’s quaint country life turned around overnight. Her stepmother would go on to have even more children with Anna’s father. Anna would go on to claim that her stepmother was hard on her, took all the money, and robbed her father from his familial wealth, but that’s not even the worst part...

As a teenager, Anna fell in love, as many teenagers do. He was a local boy who lived in her village. I don’t know his name, but I like to imagine it was something really Italian, like Matteo or Lorenzo. It’s not hard to imagine a romantic version of the southern Italian countryside. A village where the homes had a yellowish tint and priceless mountainous views with roaming pathways, cramped alleys, a large chapel all shiny and new to honor their beloved Alberico. Where a boy and girl, young and in love, could live out a fairytale. But like a fairytale, our young protagonist would have to endure heartbreak at the hands of her step sisters.

Now, regretfully, it’s not clear whether or not her father was alive or if there was anyone in Anna’s life looking out for her. However, I heard tell that Anna’s own stepsister married Anna’s first love...leaving her all alone. I was also told it was around this time she was introduced to Carmine.

Carmine was older, a veteran of the First World War, and barely 5 feet tall. He was in stark contrast to Anna, who was tall and dignified where he was short and stocky. Carmine had gone to America to build a life and was now back in the village for a while to support his siblings, following a trend many Italians tried before him. According to familial lore, Anna’s stepmother was the architect of an arrangement, sending the young Anna with Carmine, 11 years her senior, to America. Young, heartbroken and grieving, Anna was married to Carmine before the journey. By age 21, she embarked to the New World, never to see her beloved village again.

I guess, in their own way, they lived happily ever after, going on to have seven children in New Jersey- one of which is my grandfather. Anna may not have married her Prince Charming, but her life was, nevertheless, filled with love and family. Countless descendants are named for her and her likeness was passed down for generations.

The story of Anna may not sound all that impressive written out, I am by no means a writer, but she is her own Cinderella, her own Psyche: a young woman who fell victim to her stepfamily, who was married off to someone not so handsome, and then shipped off to a foreign land. But, also like Psyche and Cinderella, her life story laid the foundation for the identity of many a young women to come. Sure, the reach of Anna Crescitelli only extends as far as the women in her family, but if a story can affect one person, it can affect the world. So this one’s for you, Anna! La mia bisnonna who I never had the pleasure to meet, but whose stories inspired my imagination.


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