Dra. Veronica Veen is an art historian/archaeologist and cultural anthropologist, specialized in symbolic anthropology and women’s studies. She has been active in the Maltese field for more than 30 years.
Cinderella is one of the most beloved fairy tales. There exist thousands of variants around the world. Especially women have identified with the degraded heroine, who triumphantly ended up as a Queen. Also Malta had some own Cinderellas, though of a less passive nature, published around 1900.
That is why it could be called a most spectacular find, when cultural anthropologist Veronica Veen discovered a very deviant varient in 1992: il-Germudija, or the Sooty One, told by Marija, an elderly woman of Gozo. The heroine is an energetic and self-conscious maid, who knows without the usual ‘helping animals’ or fairies, to ‘conquer’ the heart of a somewhat timid son of the house, so not a King or a Prince. She does so riding horses in beautiful ‘cosmic dresses’, snatching flags, throwing pepper and money, being elusive for everyone, and snubbing her lover-to-be. And all this withou any trace of a nasty stepfamily or glass slipper!
Together with Marija’s niece, the author translated and commented upon this great fairy tale. More colourful stories by Marija could be added.
Even after two years hard and multidisciplinary work the author remained captivated by the many qualities of Marija’s Maltese Cinderella with its psychological refinement, its compact, effective telling style, and its virtually invisible but all-pervading perfection, serving an intricate layered symbolism. This makes it a work of art in its own right, that can easily rival the best of the classical Maltese fairy tales. Besides, with its independent and wise heroine-against-all-adds it still conveys a clear message for women toady. Already this highlights the importance of fairy tales as a vehicle for social comments and even criticism, and as a means to cope with daily reality.