As with my Anastasia article, you can watch the video below for all the information, or read the article below if videos aren't your thing. Either way, the information is 100% the same, though the video has a lot more images.
A Classic Tale
Cinderella is a story that been around for a very long time. There have been dozens of adaptations of her story over the years in dozens of different languages. The most widely know version of Cinderella is the story of Cendrillon by Charles Perrault. His version of the story is the one you grew up with and that Disney chose to base both of their Cinderella movies on.
However, Perrault's tales isn't the only version of the Cinderella story out there. No, there are even older and much darker interpretations of the tale out there as well. Today, let's take a look at two of the more popular variations to Cinderella.
Cenerentola (Giambattista Basile, 1634)
Cenerentola was written and compiled into a collection of short stories by Giambattista Basile and published posthumously in 1634.
This version of the story revolved around Zezolla (Cinderella), who is the daughter of a widower prince. The governess persuades Zezolla to convince her father to marry her and together they accomplish that goal. However, the governess then brings in her six daughters who all start to abuse Zezolla and force her into the maid like status that has become a staple of this tale.
Zezolla’s father eventually goes on a trip to the island of Sardinia and there he meets a fairy that bestows upon him presents for his daughter. Zezolla is gifted: a golden spade, a golden bucket, a silk napkin and a date seedling. She cares for and grows the seed into a tree and, through that act, awakens the fairy spirit within the tree.
When the king hosts an extravagant ball, Zezolla arrives dressed richly due to the magic of the tree fairy. The king falls in love with her, but she runs away and eludes him twice. It is on their third meeting that one of the king’s servants manages to retrieve one of her magical slippers. Hoping the find out who this mystery woman is, the king hosts a giant feast in which he invites all of the maidens in the land. He then uses the slipper to test them all to find the woman that has enchanted his heart. The test proves successful as he finds Zezolla and marries her.
Aschenputtel (The Brothers Grimm, 1812)
Ok, I don’t even need to say anything else, do I? The moment you saw who wrote this one, you knew a twisted take on this classic folktale was incoming. You ready for this one? No? Great! let’s dive in!
In this version of the story, Aschenputtel was told by her dying mother to remain good and kind, and that God would protect her once she was gone. A year after her death, her father remarried another woman with two beautiful daughters who had cruel and wicked hearts.
Aschenputtel’s step sisters stole her fine clothing and jewelry and forced her into rags. After all of that, they then forced her to be in the kitchen and to do the worst chores, giving her the nickname “Aschenputtel” or “ash fool” if you want a direct translation. Aschenputtel remained strong because of her mother’s dying wish that she would remain good and kind. She would cry and pray over her mother’s grave everyday that her life would someday improve.
On his way to a fair, Aschenputtel’s father asked his daughters what gifts they would like him to bring for them. The stepsisters asked for nice dresses and diamonds, while Aschenputtel remained humble and merely wanted the first twig that would hit his hat off his head.
Aschenputtel’s father obliges. He brings his step-daughters the gifts they wanted, and gives his own daughter a twig from the forest. Aschenputtel planted the twig over her mother’s grave and watered it with the tears she cried over her mother’s grave for years until it grew into a magnificent hazel tree.
That is both emo and beautiful.
Aschenputtel would continue pray three times a day under the tree and a white bird would always come to comfort her. The King of the land soon held a festival that would last for three days and three nights, and invited all of the beautiful maidens in the kingdom to attend so that the prince could select one as his bride.
The horrible step sisters were invited, but when Aschenputtel begged to go, the step-mother denied her and said she could after cleaning, making a huge mess of lentils for her to clean before leaving.
Aschenputtel ran off to the graveyard crying where the white bird came to her and dropped down a white gown and silk shoes. She went off to the ball with the condition that she had to return before midnight. She agreed and danced with the prince on the first night, escaping him before midnight. On the second night, she returned to him, this time in a silver gown and glass shoes, and once again ran away before the clock struck twelve.
On the third night, she returned with a dress spun of gold and wore golden slippers. However, this time the prince was determined to find out who she was and managed to get hold of one of her slippers, stating that he would marry whomever it belonged to.
On the following day, the prince on a quest to find his true love, went to Aschenputtel’s house to test the slippers.
Aschenputtel’s step-mother convinced her elder daughter to cut some of her toes off (eww) to fit into the slipper. The prince was tricked but became aware of this deception when the white doves pointed out the blood dripping from her foot.
He returned to Aschenputtel’s house where the other step-sister had cut a piece of her heel off to fit into the slippers. The prince took her with him until the two doves alerted him that he was being deceived...again.
The prince returned once more and asked if there was another girl in the house. Aschenputtel’s father mentioned they had a maid in the kitchen, but never referred to her as his daughter. It’s never explained why he does this or allows his daughter to be mistreated, but it should be noted that he would always refer to Aschenputtel as his first wife’s child and never his own.
The prince fits the slipper perfectly onto Aschenputtel’s foot and recognizes her as the girl he danced with for three nights.
In the end, at her wedding, the doves flew down and pecked out one eye from each of the step sisters. After the wedding was over, the birds struck at each sister's remaining eye, leaving them both blind as a punishment for the rest of their lives.
Now these are only three of the more popular versions of Cinderella out there. There are dozens of interpretations of this tale over the centuries with one of the earliest know variations dating back to 4th century Egypt. This was known as the story of Rhodopis and revolved around a Greek slave girl who married the king of Egypt. So yeah, you could say that Cinderella has always been a pretty iconic story.
I’ve seen a fair share of comments out there that have criticized Disney for altering the source material because the new movie took a couple liberties with the story. Honestly though, with such a rich history and countless adaptations, who could blame Disney for doing what so many others have done before? Cinderella isn’t Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It’s doesn’t have a truly definitive plot or cast of characters. It’s a folk tale, one that has been told throughout the ages.
It doesn’t matter whether she had two evil step sisters or six. Cinderella is an idea. It's a core concept to show that no matter how hard life can be or how bad the people around you may be, if you’ve got the ability to persevere and stay a good pure hearted person, that maybe one day your life will get better. Is that true? Realistically, no.
But that is why even after all these years, Cinderella remains as popular as ever. It’s a story that makes us want to believe in magic and that there just might be some good out there in the world.