THE STORY OF
Cinderella", or "The Little Glass Slipper", (French: Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre, Italian: Cenerentola, German: Aschenputtel) is a folk taleembodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward.
Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune. The story was first published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697.
Although both the story's title and the character's name change in different languages, in English-language folklore "Cinderella" is the archetypal name. The word "cinderella" has, by analogy, come to mean one whose attributes were unrecognized, or one who unexpectedly achieves recognition or success after a period of obscurity and neglect. The still-popular story of "Cinderella" continues to influence popular culture internationally, lending plot elements, allusions, and tropes to a wide variety of media.
Early versions and versions from different countries Aspects of the Cinderella story may have originated in classical antiquity. The Ancient Greek historian Strabo (Geographica Book 17, 1.33) recorded in the 1st century BC the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis, "rosy-cheeked", who lived in the Greek colony of Naucratis in Ancient Egypt. It is often considered the oldest known version of the story:
They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis. While the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap. The king, having been stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal. When she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis and became the wife of the king.
Herodotus, some five centuries before Strabo, supplied further information about Rhodopis in his Histories, writing that Rhodopis came from Thrace, and was the slave of Iadmon of Samos, and a fellow-slave of Aesop. She was taken to Egypt in the time of Pharaoh Amasis, and freed there for a large sum by Charaxus of Mytilene, brother of Sappho, the lyric poet.
The story later reappears with Aelian (ca. 175–ca. 235), showing that the Cinderella theme remained popular throughout antiquity.
Another version of the story, Ye Xian, appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Duan Chengshi around 860. Here, the hardworking and lovely girl befriends a fish, the reincarnation of her mother, who was killed by her stepmother and sister. Ye Xian saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for the New Year Festival. When she loses her slipper after being recognized by her stepfamily, the king finds her slipper and falls in love with her (eventually rescuing her from her cruel stepmother).
Another version of the story, which is similar to the Chinese version, exists in the Philippines. The story is known as "Mariang Alimango" (Mary the Crab). The ill-treated Maria wins the heart of the prince during his coming-of-age celebration, and overcomes the cruelty of her stepmother and evil stepsisters. In this version, the spirit of her dead mother reincarnates as a crab, hence the title, and serves as her "fairy godmother". The slipper-test is also present, and it has a huge resemblance to the Cinderella tales of the Middle Eastern countries.
In the Vietnamese version Tấm Cám, Tam is mistreated by both her father's co-wife and half-sister, who stole her birthright by winning a wager of fishing unjustly proposed by the stepmother. The only fish that was left to her was killed and eaten by her step-family, but its bones served as her protector and guardian, eventually leading her to be the king's bride during a festival. The protagonist however, turns into the antagonist in part two of the story, by boiling her stepsister alive and then fooling her stepmother into cannibalism by feeding her own daughter's flesh.
There is a Korean version, too, named "Kongjwi and Patjwi(콩쥐팥쥐)". It deals a story about a kind girl Kongjwi who was constantly abused by her stepmother and stepsister Patjwi. The step-family forces Kongjwi to stay at home while they attend the king's ball, but a fairy appears like that in Perrault and gives her an attire more beautiful than everyone else. The motif is same, concerning also a king falling in love with her. But some minor details have changed because this fictional story is taking place in Korea. That includes the slipper's details and the usual festivals that happen in the Cinderella stories.
Several different variants of the story appear in the medieval One Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, including "The Second Shaykh's Story", "The Eldest Lady's Tale" and "Abdallah ibn Fadil and His Brothers", all dealing with the theme of a younger sibling harassed by two jealous elders. In some of these, the siblings are female, while in others, they are male. One of the tales, "Judar and His Brethren", departs from the happy endings of previous variants and reworks the plot to give it a tragic ending instead, with the younger brother being poisoned by his elder brothers.
Aspects of Cinderella may be derived from the story of Cordelia in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. Cordelia is the youngest and most virtuous of King Leir of Briton's three daughters, however her virtue is such that it will not allow her to lie in flattering her father when he asks, so that he divides up the kingdom between the elder daughters and leaves Cordelia with nothing. Cordelia marries her love, Aginippus, King of the Franks, and flees to Gaul where she and her husband raise an army and depose her wicked sisters who have been misusing their father. Cordelia is finally crowned Queen of the Britons. However her reign only lasts five years. The story is famously retold in Shakespeare's King Lear, but given a tragic ending.
Cenerentola, Cinderella and Aschenputtel
Aschenputtel at her mother's grave, with birds
Giambattista Basile, a Neapolitan soldier and government official, wrote Lo cunto de li cunti (The Story of Stories), or Pentamerone. It featured the tale of Cenerentola, which features a wicked step mother and step sisters, magical transformations, a missing slipper, and a hunt by a prince for the owner of the slipper. It was published posthumously in 1634.
(Cenerentola)A widowed prince has a daughter, Zezolla (the Cinderella figure), who is tended by a beloved governess. The governess, with Zezolla's help, persuades the prince to marry her. The governess then brings forward six daughters of her own, who abuse Zezolla, and send her into the kitchen to work as a servant. The prince goes into the island of Sardinia, meets a fairy who gives presents to his daughter, and brings back for her, a golden spade, a golden bucket, a silken napkin, and a date seedling. The girl cultivates the tree, and when the king gives a ball, Zezolla appears dressed richly by a fairy living in the date tree. The king falls in love with her, but Zezolla runs away before he can find out who she is. Twice Zezolla escapes the king and his servants. The third time, the king's servant captures one of her slippers. The king invites all of the maidens in the land to a feast with a shoe-test, identifies Zezolla after the shoe jumps from his hand to her foot, and eventually marries her.
One of the most popular versions of Cinderella was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. The popularity of his tale was due to his additions to the story, including the pumpkin, the fairy-godmother and the introduction of glass slippers.
Another well-known version was recorded by the German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century. The tale is called "Aschenputtel" ("Cinderella" in English translations) and the help comes not from a fairy-godmother but the wishing tree that grows on her mother's grave.
A wealthy gentleman's wife lay on her deathbed, and called her only daughter to her bedside. She asked her to remain good and pious, and God will protect her. She then died and was buried. After a transition of seasons (winter and spring) the widower married another woman, who had two daughters of her own; they had beautiful faces and fair skin, but their hearts were cruel and wicked. The stepsisters stole the girl's fine clothes and jewels and forced her to wear only rags; they banished her into the kitchen to do the worst chores, and gave her the nickname "Aschenputtel" ("Cinder-Fool".) Despite all of this the girl remained good and pious, and would always go to her mother's grave to cry and pray to God to give better circumstances for herself.
One day, the gentleman visits a fair, promising his stepdaughters gifts of luxury. The eldest asked for beautiful dresses, while the younger for pearls and diamonds. His own daughter merely asks for the first twig that will hit his hat off on the way. The gentleman goes on his way, and acquires presents for his stepdaughters. While passing a forest he gets a hazel twig, and gives it to his daughter. She plants the twig over her mother's grave, waters it with her tears and over the years, it grows into a glowing hazel tree. Under it the girl would pray for thrice a day, and a white bird would always come to comfort her.
The king decides to give a festival that will last for three whole days and nights, and invites all the beautiful maidens in the land to attend, because the prince is supposed to select from one of them a bride for himself. The two sisters were also invited, but when Aschenputtel begged them to allow her to go with them into the celebration, the stepmother refused because she had no dress nor shoes to wear. When the girl insisted, the woman threw a dish of lentils into the ashes for her to pick up, guaranteeing her permission to attend the festival, and when the girl accomplished the task in less than an hour with the help of two, white doves sent by her mother from Heaven, the stepmother only redoubled the task and threw down even a greater quantity of lentils. When Aschenputtel was able to accomplished it in a greater speed, not wanting to spoil her daughters' chances, the stepmother hasted away with them to the ball and left the crying stepdaughter behind.
The girl retreats to the graveyard to ask for help. The white bird drops a white gown and silk shoes. She goes to the ball, with the precaution of leaving before midnight. The prince dances with her, but she eludes him before midnight strikes. The next evening, the girl appears in a much grander gown of silver and silver shoes. The prince falls in love with her and dances with her the whole evening, but when midnight comes, she leaves again. The third evening, she appears dressed in spun gold with slippers of gold. Now the prince is determined to keep her, and has the entire stairway smeared with pitch. Aschenputtel loses track of time, and when she runs away to leave, one of her golden slippers gets stuck on that pitch. The prince proclaims that he would marry the maiden whose foot would fit the golden slipper.
The next morning, the prince goes into Aschenputtel's house and tries the slipper on the eldest stepsister. The sister is advised by her mother to cut off her toes in order to fit the slipper. While riding with the stepsister, the two doves from Heaven tell the Prince that blood drips from her foot. Appalled by her treachery, he goes back again and tries the slipper on the other stepsister. She cuts off part of her heel in order to get in her foot in the slipper, and again the prince is fooled. While riding with her to the king's castle, the doves alert him again about the blood on her foot. He comes back to inquire for another girl. The gentleman tells him that they kept a kitchen-maid in the house - yet does not mention that she is his own daughter - and the prince asks him to let her try the slipper. The girl appears after washing herself, and when she puts on the slipper, the prince recognizes her as the stranger with whom he had danced at the ball.
In the end, during Aschenputtel's wedding, as she is walking down the aisle with her stepsisters as her bridesmaids, for they had hoped to worm their way into her favor, the doves from Heaven fly down and strike the two stepsisters' eyes, one in the left and the other in the right. When the wedding comes to an end, and Aschenputtel and her prince march out of the church, the doves fly again, striking the remaining eyes of the two evil sisters blind, a punishment they have to endure for the rest of their lives.
Aschenputtel's relationship with her father in this version is ambiguous; Perrault's version states that the absent father is dominated by his second wife, hence why he does not prevent the abuse of his daughter. However, the father in this tale plays an active role in several scenes, and it is not explained why he tolerates the mistreatment of his child. He also describes Aschenputtel as his "first wife's child" and not his own.
(taken from Perrault)
Oliver Herford illustrated the fairy godmother inspired by the Perrault version
Once upon a time, there was a widower who married a proud and haughty woman as his second wife. She had two daughters, who were equally vain and selfish . By his first wife, he'd had a beautiful young daughter, a girl of unparalleled goodness and sweet temper. The Stepmother and her daughters forced the first daughter into servitude, where she was made to work day and night in menial chores. After the girl's chores were done for the day, she would retire to the barren and cold room given to her, and would curl up near the fireplace in an effort to stay warm. She would often arise covered in cinders, giving rise to the mocking nickname "Cinderella". Cinderella bears the abuse patiently and dares not tell her father, since his wife controls him entirely.
One day, the Prince invites all the young ladies in the land to a ball, planning to choose a wife from amongst them. The two Stepsisters gleefully planned their wardrobes for the ball, and taunted Cinderella by telling her maids were not invited to the ball.
As the sisters depart to the ball, Cinderella cries in despair. Her Fairy Godmother magically appears and immediately begins to transform Cinderella from house servant to the young lady she was by birth, all in the effort to get Cinderella to the ball. She turns a pumpkin into a golden carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen. She then turns Cinderella's rags into a beautiful jeweled gown, complete with a delicate pair of glass slippers. The Godmother tells her to enjoy the ball, but warned that she had to return before midnight, when the spells would be broken.
At the ball, the entire court is entranced by Cinderella, most especially the Prince. At this first ball, Cinderella remembers to leave before midnight. Back home, Cinderella graciously thanks her Godmother. She then greets the stepsisters, who had not recognized her earlier and talked of nothing but the beautiful girl at the ball.
Another ball is held the next evening, and Cinderella again attends with her Godmother's help. The Prince has become even more entranced, and Cinderella in turn becomes so enchanted by him she loses track of time and leaves only at the final stroke of midnight, losing one of her glass slippers on the steps of the palace in her haste. The Prince chases her, but outside the palace, the guards watch only a simple country wench leave. The Prince pockets the slipper and vows to find and marry the girl to whom it belonged. Meanwhile, Cinderella keeps the other slipper, which did not disappear when the spell was broken.
The Prince tries the slipper on all the women in the kingdom. When the Prince arrives at Cinderella's villa, the stepsisters try in vain to win over the prince. Cinderella asks if she might try, while the stepsisters taunt her. Naturally, the slipper fits perfectly, and Cinderella produces the other slipper for good measure. The stepsisters both plead for forgiveness, and Cinderella forgives them for their cruelties.
Cinderella marries the Prince, and the stepsisters also marry two lords.
The first moral of the story is that beauty is a treasure, but graciousness is priceless. Without it, nothing is possible; with it, one can do anything.
However, the second moral of the story mitigates the first one and reveals the criticism that Perrault is aiming at: "Another moral: Without doubt it is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense. These, and similar talents come only from heaven, and it is good to have them. However, even these may fail to bring you success, without the blessing of a godfather or a godmother."
Folklorists have long studied variants on this tale across cultures. In 1893, Marian Roalfe Cox, commissioned by the Folklore Society of Britain, produced Cinderella: Three Hundred and Forty-Five Variants of Cinderella, Catskin and, Cap o'Rushes, Abstracted and Tabulated with a Discussion of Medieval Analogues and Notes.
Further morphology studies have continued on this seminal work.
Cinderella is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 510A, the persecuted heroine. Others of this type include The Sharp Grey Sheep, The Golden Slipper, The Story of Tam and Cam, Rushen Coatie, Fair, Brown and Trembling and Katie Woodencloak.
(wikipedia 2013. knowledge and studies may vary in the future years.)
Ashes, Blood, and the Slipper of Glass by Terri Windling
Once upon a time there was a rich merchant who had a lovely wife and daughter. But the wife died, and in time, the merchant took a second wife. Now this woman was also fair of face, but cruel and hard inside her heart, and she had two wicked daughters whom she favored above all things. She dressed these two in silk and lace and fed them on white cake and cream. Her step–daughter she clothed in rags and fed with scrapings from the bottom of the pot. The child became their scullery girl, and slept in the ashes of the hearth for warmth. She soon grew thin and filthy, and they called her Cinderella. . . .
So begins one of the most famous stories of all time, "Cinderella" (or "Arne–Thompson tale type 510A," as the folklorists note it), a tale which is found in diverse cultures all around the globe. In English–speaking lands, there are few indeed who would not recognize this classic tale. We've all grown up with the wicked step–mother, the cheerless hearth and the slipper of glass; these images have become an indelible part of childhood for us all. Yet the "Cinderella" we know today is subtly altered from the Ash Girl tales handed down for at least a thousand years. Our modern "Cinderella" is a simple (and simple–minded) rags–to–riches story: the tale of a timid, passive girl whose lovely face wins her the "happy ending" of a wealthy marriage. How did the feisty Ash Girl of ages past turn into the feckless creature of the Disney film and countless modern picture books? To examine this, we must go back to the oldest written versions of the story.
The earliest text we know was recorded in China in the 9th century, although the scribe, Tuan Ch'eng Shih, implies that the story is old even at this time. Yeh–hsien, the Chinese Cinderella, is described as "very intelligent, very clever" and "good at making pottery on the wheel." Her mother dies, and then her father as well, leaving her with the father's co–wife and her daughter, both of whom mistreat Yeh–hsien. Her only friend is a magical golden fish, who appears to her in the pond. The step–mother discovers this source of comfort and promptly kills the fish. Yeh–hsien recovers the bones from the dung heap, and hides them in her room. The bones are magic, and the fish continues to help her even after death, providing the food and drink and warmth that Yeh–hsien's family denies her. When the girl is left behind on festival day, the bones provide her with clothes: a cloak of kingfisher feathers and tiny golden shoes. Running home again, the girl loses a shoe. It is picked up and sold to a warlord, who begins a massive search to find the woman the tiny shoe will fit. (This, remember, is a culture in which tiny feet were then so highly prized that the brutal art of foot binding was practiced on highborn women.) Yeh–hsien reveals herself and becomes chief wife in the warlord's household. The step–mother and step–sister are subsequently stoned to death — but their grave, "The Tomb of the Distressed Women," becomes a local shrine.
It is not until many centuries later that the tale makes its written appearance in Europe. Giambattista Basile's Italian "Cat Cinderella," published in Naples in 1634, is one of the earliest extant western versions of the story. Basile's "La Gatta Cenerentola" tells the tale of a rich widower and his lovely daughter, Zezolla. The widower marries a wicked woman who subsequently mistreats the child. Zezolla complains to her beloved governess, who gives the girl the following advice: "When your father leaves the house, tell your step–mother you would like one of the ragged old dresses she keeps in the big chest. She'll open the chest and say, 'Hold the lid.' While she is rummaging around inside, you must let the lid fall suddenly so that it breaks her neck. When she is dead, beg your father to take me for his wife, and then we shall both be happy." Zezolla carries out these rather startling instructions, and her father marries the governess. At this point, the conniving woman reveals she already has six daughters of her own, and then proves to be even more abusive than Zezolla's first step–mother. The girl is reduced to sleeping in the ashes of the hearth along with the kitchen cat, and finally, losing even her name, becomes the Cat Cinderella.
Our heroine is aided by the "fairies of Sardinia," whose favor she gains through her own quick wits. The fairies give her a magic date tree, from which she requests magnificent clothes in order to attend the local feast–day, where she dazzles a neighboring king. On the third feast–day she loses her shoe, and the story continues in a familiar vein — but this Cinderella clearly revels in her cleverness and trickery. It is not a gentle or particularly moral tale, and was never meant for children's ears. Basile recounts "La Gatta Cenerentola" in a prose both earthy and florid, rich with double entendres and filled with the ribald puns so loved by the readers of his day.
Although the Cat Cinderella is the most complete of the old European Ash Girl stories, Straparola and others published earlier tales which partially resembled "Cinderella" as we know it. None of the surviving variants matches the age of the Chinese story above, leading some scholars to speculate that the "original" tale (whatever that might be) must have come from the Orient. Wherever the tale began, it certainly succeeded in spreading itself around the world, adapting from culture to culture, from teller to teller, yet keeping its essence intact. In 1883, English folklorist Marian Roalfe Cox published a compilation of three hundred and forty–five variants of Cinderella (and the related tales Catskin and Cap o' Rushes, as well as "Ash Boy" variants), abstracted and tabulated, with a discussion of medieval analogues. In 1951, Swedish folklorist Anna Birgitta Rooth published her Cinderella Cycle; she drew upon over seven hundred versions of the story. The German version, "Aschenputtel," was recorded by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. It begins with the usual death of the mother and the entry of a wicked new wife and her two daughters into the household. The step–child is sent to live in the kitchen, where she is forced to cook and scrub and is subjected to further abuse. The father goes off to a fair and asks each daughter what present she would like. The step–sisters choose clothes and jewels; Ash Girl asks for the first twig that brushes against his hat. She plants this twig on her mother's grave and it grows, from the bones, into a magical tree. The tree can give her whatever she wishes, but Ash Girl waits, and bides her time. There are no talking mice, no pumpkin coaches, no twinkly little fairy godmothers — just a stoic, clever girl in a cruel household, aided by the potent magic of the dead.
When the King's ball is announced, Ash Girl boldly asks for permission to go. Her step–mother empties a dish of lentils into the hearth, saying, "First you must pick the lentils out of the ashes within two hours. If you succeed, perhaps you'll go to the ball. If you fail, I'll beat you black and blue." The girl calls down the birds from the sky to come to her aid and finish the work. They do so, and the task is fulfilled, but the step–mother will not relent; she tosses two bowls of lentils into the hearth, saying, "Pick them out again within one hour." The birds come again at the Ash Girl's bidding; she fulfils her task, but to no avail.
"You're much too filthy and ragged," the step–mother says as she leaves for the ball. Undaunted, Ash Girl requests a golden dress from the tree on her mother's grave. She goes to the ball and dances with the prince, and yet conceals her identity from him (although there has been no magical injunction compelling her to do so). Twice she slips away from him despite his attempts to follow her home. Her father, oddly, makes an appearance here — he suspects her tricks and tries to catch her out, acting enraged, even violent now. The third night the prince resorts to a trick of his own — he covers the stairs with pitch, and one of her silver slippers sticks fast. The Prince proclaims he will marry whichever girl the tiny slipper fits. The first step–sister cannot fit the shoe, until her mother hacks off her big toe. The prince takes her away as his bride, but as they pass the grave the birds cry out: "Look! Look! There's blood in the shoe! The shoe's too small! The right bride is still at home!" Now the second step–sister tries on the shoe, and it fits — once her mother hacks off her heel. Once again the birds warn the prince he has the wrong girl, and he returns and finds Ash Girl at last. The pair are married — while on the wedding day birds peck out the step–sisters' eyes.
In "Rushen Coatie," a Scottish version of the tale collected one hundred years ago, the dead mother comes back in the form of a cow to feed her starving child — until the suspicious step–sisters discover this and have it killed. The animal's bones retain the potent magic of the dead woman, providing the girl with clothes so that she can go to church and meet her prince (i.e: her ticket, in older societies, to life beyond the family walls). Many versions of the tale throughout the world contain this ghostly element: the bird or cow or cat or hound containing the dead mother's spirit, contrasting the strength of the first mother's love with the second mother's wickedness. Fairy tales, Marina Warner has pointed out (in her brilliant study From the Beast to the Blonde) often reflect the particular conditions of the society in which they are told. "The absent mother," she writes, "can be read as literally that: a feature of the family before our modern era, when death in childbirth was the most common cause of female mortality, and surviving orphans would find themselves brought up by their mother's successor. . . . When a second wife entered the house, she often found herself and her children in competition — often for scarce resources — with the surviving offspring of the earlier marriage.
"This antipathy seethes in the plots of many 'Cinderellas', sometimes offering an overt critique of social custom. Rossini's Cinderella opera, La Cenerentola, shows worldly–wise indignation at his heroine's plight — in her case, at the hands of her stepfather, Don Magnifico, who plots to make himself rich by marrying off his two other daughters, ignoring Cinderella. Tremendous buffoon he might be, but he treacherously pronounces Cinderella dead when he thinks it will help advance his own interests. And when she protests, he threatens her with violence. Dowries are at issue here, as they were in Italy in Rossini's time; sisters compete for the larger share and Don Magnifico does not want to cut his wherewithal three ways. As it was gradually amassed, such corredo (treasure) was stored in cassoni, which were often decorated with pictures of just such stories as 'Cinderella'."
The Rossini opera is unusual in casting a man in the step–parent role. Yet the primary male in other tales — Cinderella's natural father — is an ambiguous figure at best. "The father," writes Angela Carter (in her story "Ashputtle" or "The Mother's Ghost"), "is a mystery to me. Is he so besotted with his new wife that he cannot see how his daughter is soiled with kitchen refuse and filthy from her ashy bed and always hard at work? If he sensed there was a drama in hand, he was content to leave the entire production to the women for, absent as he might be, always remember that it is his house where Ashputtle sleeps on the cinders, and he is the invisible link that binds both sets of mothers and daughters in their violent equation."
This is a women's story, concerned with relationships between women: between Cinderella and her mother on the one hand, the second wife and her daughters on the other. Yet, as Carter is quick to point out, the father is "the unmoved mover, the unseen organizing principle. Without the absent father there would have been no story because there would have been no conflict." In every version of the story I have read, the father casts a remarkably blind eye over the circumstances of his household. He quickly disappears from the story both emotionally and literally. It is not to him that the Ash Girl turns — help must come from another source. From the mother's ghost or the bones of a fish; from a giant stork in a Javanese version; from a talking doll in a Russian variant; from the king of the frogs in an African "Cinderella" collected in Hausaland; from spiders, eagle–women and spirits in Native American renditions.
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