Evolution of Fairy Tales: Cinderella

I’ve decided to do a series here about how fairy tales have evolved over the years. To illustrate this, I’ll be comparing the original story to the Disney versions, as those are the most well known.

I’ll begin with Cinderella. The story was first written by the Charles Perrault in 1697 and the Disney animated movie was made in 1950. While it was first written by Perrault, it’s a tale that exists in many countries and cultures and has been handed down for centuries, so there are differences even between the ‘original’ stories. I’ll also compare the well-known Brothers’ Grimm version.

Glass Slipper

The Stepsisters

Perrault:  Proud and haughty, like their mother. No physical description.

Disney: Cruel and self-centered, not very attractive.

Grimm: Beautiful with evil hearts. Not only do they make Cinderella do chores, but they intentionally make them impossible.

The Father

Perrault: In this French version, Cinderella’s father is alive. He is completely ruled by his second wife and is unaware of the way his daughter is treated.

Disney: Cinderella’s father dies shortly after his second marriage, leaving her in her stepmother’s care.

Grimm: The father in this version just seems oblivious. He is around, yet doesn’t confront his wife about his daughter’s treatment.

The Ball

Perrault: The prince threw a ball and invited all fashionable people. The ball lasted two nights.

Disney: The king threw a ball to try to marry off the prince and invited all eligible young women.

Grimm: The king announced a festival, to last for three days, and invited all the beautiful ladies in the country were invited, in the hopes that his son would choose one to marry.

The Task

Perrault: The stepsisters jokingly ask if Cinderella wants to go to the ball, then mock her for saying yes. There is no “if you do this, you can go.”

Disney: Cinderella’s stepmother agrees to let Cinderella go to the ball if she can get all her chores done and be dressed acceptably by the time the rest of them are leaving. With the help of her mouse friends, she finishes her chores and her dress, but her stepsisters cruelly destroy the dress and leave her behind.

Grimm: The stepmother empties a bowl of lentils into the ashes of a fireplace. If Cinderella can pick them all out in two hours, she will be allowed to go. Some helpful birds assist her, but when she asks again, her stepmother tells her she can’t come because she has no gown and can’t dance.

Outside Help

Perrault: Cinderella’s godmother, who happens to be a fairy, rewards Cinderella’s goodness by helping her get to the ball. She magically transforms a pumpkin, six mice, and six lizards into a coach, horses, and footmen. She also transforms Cinderella’s rags into a beautiful gown, including a pair of glass slippers. The godmother warns Cinderella not to stay past midnight, as the magic will disappear.

Disney: Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears and turns a pumpkin, mice, and a dog into a coach, horses, and footmen. She also makes a dress for Cinderella, complete with glass slippers. Cinderella isn’t allowed to stay past midnight because the magic won’t last past that.

Grimm: Cinderella’s father once brought her a branch of a hazel tree, which she planted at her mother’s grave. The night of the festival, she visits her mother’s grave, wishing she could go with her family. The tree produced a dress and silver silk slippers. Cinderella attends the festival until she wants to leave.

The Mystery Guest

Perrault: Cinderella is mistaken for a princess. The prince dances with her all night, refusing to let her dance with other men. During the meal, Cinderella sits by her stepsisters, who are awed by the ‘foreign princess’. She is kind to them, despite the way they treat her at home. She leaves with plenty of time left. The second night, she loses track of time while with the prince, and runs out as the clock strikes twelve, leaving behind one of her glass slippers.

Disney: Cinderella spends the evening dancing with a handsome stranger. She is so entranced, she doesn’t realize the time until the clock begins to strike midnight. She runs away, but accidentally loses a shoe.

Grimm: Cinderella impresses everyone and is unrecognized by her family. When she wants to go home, the prince offers to escort her. She refuses, but he follows her anyway. She climbs into a pigeon coop to escape him. The prince and Cinderella’s father break in, but she is gone. The second night, the same thing happened and Cinderella escaped into a tree. The third night, the prince sets a trap. He spreads tar over the stairs and when Cinderella runs away, she leaves a golden slipper on the sticky stairs.

The Hunt

Perrault: The prince declares he will marry the maiden who can wear the slipper. He tries it on everyone until he gets to Cinderella’s house. She asks to try it on, and it finally fits.

Disney: The prince sends someone to try the slipper on the foot of every maiden. When he gets to Cinderella’s house, he finds only the stepsisters. Cinderella’s stepmother locked her away in the attic. She manages to escape, but the slipper is broken before she can try it on. Cinderella produces the second glass slipper and proves herself to be the mystery woman.

Grimm: The prince brings the lost shoe to the house he chased Cinderella to each night. He says he will marry the woman it fits. The first stepsister tries to wear it, but it is too small. She cuts off her toes to make it fit. The prince begins to take her away as his bride, but is warned by a bird that he has the wrong bride. The second stepsister tries on the shoe, but when it doesn’t fit, she cuts off part of her heel. The bird again warns the prince that he has the wrong girl. Finally, the prince insists on seeing Cinderella. Her family had hidden her away, but he insists on seeing all the girls in the house. She tries on the slipper and is whisked away to marry the prince.

Ever After

Perrault: Cinderella marries the prince and, true to her kind nature, sets her sisters up as ladies of the court, even finding them husbands.

Disney: Cinderella and the prince marry. Cinderella’s stepfamily are not seen again.

Grimm: Cinderella marries her prince. Her stepsisters, trying to work their way into her good graces, attend Cinderella’s wedding. Birds attack the stepsisters and and peck their eyes out.

So there you have it. A comparison of 3 popular versions of Cinderella. There have been countless adaptations. What are some of your favorites?

Until next time, fellow wonderers!

3 thoughts on “Evolution of Fairy Tales: Cinderella

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