May 18, 2021

#08-085: The "Real" Cinderella

in a color painting, a man kneels at center, having just put a shoe on a young woman at right; two other young women look on from the left
It fits!

Note: A coach made from a pumpkin, a fairy godmother, and a glass slipper lost at midnight? NOPE! As we see in this lesson, Grimm wrote of none of these.

Get Ready: Why do you think fairy tales (and other stories passed from one generation to another) can change so much? What purpose is served by the changes?

Everyone knows the story of "Cinderella"--or do they?

In fact, as long ago as 1893, one scholar collected 345 versions of the story! Variants have been found in many cultures, including ancient Greece, medieval France, 9th-century China ("Ye Xian"), Arabia, and of course, Germany, where the version most people think they know, "Aschenputtel" ("Ash Fool" in German), was collected by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. But in fact, what most of us know is the Disney version, which has been sanitized for modern consumption.

The Grimm version, like many of their stories, is grim indeed. They collected these stories from old storytellers, who had no need to leave out the gruesome details. What's more, the German tale has no fairy godmother, and in fact Cinderella's father is still alive--and doesn't save her!

The girl's mother has died, after making her promise to always be good and kind. Her resolve is tested when her father marries a woman with two daughters--the "evil step-sisters"--who treat her as a servant.

Instead of a fairy godmother, this Cinderella has a wish-giving tree growing on her mother's grave, watered with her own tears. When the time comes for the king's festival, at which a bride will be chosen for his son, this tree and its attendant white dove bestow finery upon the girl.

As with the Disney version, the heroine attends all three days of what is in this version a daytime event, and each time is favored by the eligible prince. Each time she flees at sunset and each time the prince pursues her. (No "turning into a pumpkin at midnight.") The third time, he has had the steps smeared with pitch, and one of her shoes gets stuck in the sticky mess.

Now the prince, as we know, travels around trying to find who fits the shoe. And here is one of those gruesome details: the elder sister chops off her own toes to try to fit, and the younger sister chops off her heels! But Cinderella's dove attendants inform the prince of the ruse, and he returns, at last fitting the shoe to the right girl.

In a second edition of the story, another ugly detail is added: at the wedding of Cinderella and the prince, her doves fly down and peck out the sisters' eyes, forcing them to live out their days as blind beggars.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. bestow
  2. consumption
  3. eligible
  4. finery
  5. gruesome
  6. heroine
  7. peck
  8. sanitized
  9. smeared
  10. variants

  1. cleaned up; made less offensive
  2. spread (on)
  3. use; intake
  4. a female hero
  5. available for marriage
  6. strike with a bird's beak
  7. give as a gift
  8. differing versions
  9. horrible; yucky; bloody
  10. beautiful clothes, jewels, etc.

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 18, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. c; 3. e; 4. j; 5. i; 6. d; 7. f; 8. a; 9. b; 10. h