All the Ever Afters; the Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother by Danielle Teller
A Peasant's Daughter
After the death of her mother, her father had realized there was no need to keep his youngest daughter around the cabin with little work for her to do. He already had another daughter to tend to the home and mending, a strong son to help work in the fields. Finding a place for Agnes was another issue entirely, in the Danielle Teller novel All The Ever Afters; The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother.
Under the Disney scope to include singing mice and pumpkin carriages, the tale of the beaten down girl that made her way to the ball and lost a glass slipper only to be the chosen love of the Prince, is far from the origin tale of a much darker nature.
Still before Teller's book, no one really thought about the stepmother and stepsister's as anything other than the jailers of the young girl that wanted nothing more than to attend the ball like every other lady in the village.
What we find in this tale, begins with the flashbacks of Agnes, the stepmother as a young girl that was cast away after the death of her mother and sent to serve the manor house rather than drain resources on the family.
Agnes is first takes a job as a laundress and is treated cruelly by her mistress who often beats her or deprives her food by making her work through meals. Desperate to get away, Agnes only grows stronger.
When a messenger arrives saying that the abbey is looking for a lady maid, Agnes tries to free herself from her current position but is told that she can not be spared. Lying to the messenger, she says that she had been appointed after manipulating others in the manor house to say that her mistress had planned for her to leave in the morning for the abbey.
Unfortunately, Agnes was only trading one unhappiness for another.
Lying to say that she had been selected to move on to the abbey, Agnes is taken to her second place of employment. Boasting that she was to be a lady maid, she is disheartened to find that no such employment existed when she reached the abbey but they might keep her on as a temporary laundress as the last had become pregnant and was forced to be married off to the first man they could find to take her. Begrudgingly, Agnes takes this position and it is as if she is just starting over.
Life At The Rose House
The grounds were like nothing she had ever seen before.
The amount of flowers, and fresh grass. The stables in her recollection, yielded back to the present time in the book where was currently attending her stepdaughter, Ella, whom had become the Princess of the castle after the famous scene at the ball and the finding of the foot that fit the glass slipper.
Sure Ella was beautiful and kind as the stories say, but only she had know the terrible child that she had been with crying spells and haughty behavior unbecoming of the crown.
Ella had been her charge when she had first been taken in to be a nurse maid, and eventually through marriage she had become the girl's stepmother. While Ella had so differed from the daring of her own two children; afraid to ride horses, the reputation that her own dear girls had earned through village gossip was untrue.
The girls had never done anything to bully Ella and they encouraged her to attend the ball that she most famous for in the tales.
Back in the past, Rose House was lived in by nuns and few guests and Agnes found herself in love with religion.
Treated to sermons and small reading lessons where she began to understand what words made up the psalms she had memorized, Agnes hoped for permission to become a nun, swearing that this must be what God had put her at Rose House for.
Falling in love with the pageantry of the abbey and religion, Agnes was beginning to learn to read religious text, something that would never have been wasted on a servant in the manor house. If the manor house had figured out that Agnes had lied to get her new assignment, they never sent for her. Instead the temporary position was lasting longer than originally promised. Agnes hoped to make the abbey her home for always.
God's Plan For Agnes
Begging to be allowed to become a nun, Agnes's proposal was laughed off.
There was no way a servant girl of no education would be allowed such a position. Agnes was lucky they had taken her in when there was no need or a girl to do anything but the laundry and she better be grateful for that.
Seeing her plans slipping away, Agnes did find solace in the one friend that she felt she had at the abbey, a young man living there as a ward. Fernan's words were kind to her after so much disapproval.
He made her laugh and honored her with compliments until the one day escaping the rain they had run into a dark barn where he had convinced her to lose her virginity to him.
Unsure how she felt afterwards, manipulated but she still had love for the man, she continued to meet him on afternoons.
Then suddenly his demeanor had changed. He wanted nothing to do with her and she wasn't sure what she had done that had displeased him.
Called in front of the abbey, she had suddenly realized that she was the last to know of her pregnancy as her shift had grown tighter and her moods more wild.
Forced to give the identity of the father, Agnes had found out that her lover had a reputation for coupling with the newest girls working in the abbey and before her girls had been sent away or married off. It had been the plight of the girl that she had taken the job from.
With no hopes of being a nun, Agnes was forced to leave but because of his common sin, this time Fernan was ordered to take financial care of Agnes and her new babe.
Realizing that she was stuck in a situation that had no clear end, Agnes had told the villagers that her husband had traveled much as the messenger to the abbey so it explained for the absences.
Eventually bearing three children, once dead to pox, Agnes found a way to support her girls by running the alehouse.
Before the village knew Cinderella's name and believed in the magic of fairy godmother's and pumpkin coaches lead by rats that had grown to be horses, Agnes already had her own troubles.
Her children were already under the scrutiny of those around her saying that in particular her oldest daughter was "too dark of complexion" was branded a bad luck omen, a witch.
Often attacked by other children learning the foolishness from their own parents, Agnes fought many of the battles that found her children in danger from others in the village. She was proud of her girls, be they not as pretty and scarred by the pox outbreak.
After the death of Fernan, Agnes was evicted from their cottage, pleading her case to the abbey she had not seen in so long. Claiming that she was the widow, even though they were only common law married as there was no papers ever recorded, she was not allowed to retain the property or the alehouse. Agnes was furious stating that it was the abbey that had sent her there in the first place and allowed for Fernan to give her an allowance at their own judgement.
With no other options, Agnes begged to let her girls at least be schooled in the abbey while she went off to find work elsewhere, eventually landing upon the manner she hadn't seen since she was a child to become a nurse maid for a child of a woman that had gone half insane since the birth.
Saving the child often from a mother that hallucinated the child's monstrosity, life with Ella began early and was difficult from the start as there was little love between the young girl and her nurse.
Raising to be the Princess, Ella still had kindness to those that had been her family and allowed them to work positions around the village, Agnes now heading the abbey that she had once hoped to be a part of.
Ella had mothered two children of her own and still had visits with her family but she did nothing to scare off the rumored reputation of those that alleged to have tormented and beat her to ribbons.
We never see things from Ella's perspective so it is hard to say of her motivations or if the reflection of Agnes is more jealousy than accuracy.
While this book sheds light to characters that hardly had more than a mention in other versions of the story, it was interesting to see the backstory of Agnes but not particularly necessary.
What would have been of more interest would have been to see the family in modern day and get to know them to see if the rumors were true and have more interaction with Ella than in the pages of a journal entry.
Still All The Ever Afters is well written and a fast and interesting tale of a young girl's survival and rise to womanhood in the the backdrop of this well known tale.
If the stepmother and stepsisters are evil indeed, its hard to put an answer on from how little you get to know them in the present timeline as all true mentions are in the memories of Agnes.