The Cinderella myth is endlessly fascinating because there are at least 345 versions of the story extending across all corners of the globe, and while most of us were introduced to the fable through Disney's iconic blue gown and singing mice, most versions are steeped in a decent smattering of gore.
While researching the many variants of this rags to riches tale, I came across the shockingly gory Vietnamese version and I thought you guys would be interested of hearing their cannibalistic interpretation of the timeless tale.
So, prepare to have the pumpkins, fairy godmothers and bippity boppity boo of your childhood slightly tainted as we look at a decidedly more adult retelling.
The Story of Tấm and Cám
The first version of the Cinderella story originated in Egypt and was recorded by the Roman historian Strabo in the first century BC, and the Vietnamese version is estimated to be around 8000 years older from somewhere in the region of nine BC.
Like many stories from this time period, it contains a level of brutality that would be considered totally unacceptable to children, but reflected the mortality rates, violence and normalized abuse that were typical of the era.
The story begins with a man who marries the second time after his first wife's death and has a second child. The second daughter was named Cám (dark rice) because she was browner in coloring (which at the time characterized her as the 'ugly' sister of the narrative because darker skin was associated with hard labor and a poor background) while his first daughter by his deceased wife was named Tấm, which translates to broken rice.
Cám was always the favored sister due to her mother's presence in the house and one day the daughter's of the family were sent to fish for carp knowing that the best angler would be awarded with a precious silk shawl.
Cám spent the whole time frolicking the river because she knew she would never be punished for her idleness, but her sister diligently fished until she had a whole basket of carp. Before they returned home, Cám advised Tấm to wash the mud out of her hair and stole all of the fish to falsely claim the precious prize.
When Tấm realized she had been tricked, she cried to Buddha who told her to check her basket for the last remaining carp and put it into the well behind her house. She was instructed to feed the tiny fish everyday while reciting a poem which read:
"Oh my dear little carp! Come and eat the golden rice, silver rice of mine Not to eat the stale rice, old porridge of the others"
The carp grew big and fat with Tấm incantations and love, but soon the stepmother became guilty and hid to see what her step daughter was up to. When Tấm was gone, and went over to the well and repeated the greeting she had memorized after heard Tấm recite it, and she saw the carp come up from the water before immediately killing it and devouring the precious fish in her rice porridge.
When Tấm discovered this, she was devastated but Buddha came to her again and instructed her to dig the the bones of the carp out of the trash and bury them in four separate jars underneath each corner of her bed.
Later on in the year, the king proclaimed a festival, but Tấm was not permitted to attend the event and was left at home to do household chores as the whole family dressed in their finery. While she was sobbing bitterly over her misfortune, a fairy guardian appeared and transformed a handful of dust into sparrows, before instructing Tấm to dig out the four jars.
The first jar, miraculously stowed a beautiful blue and silver gown, the second, a pair of golden slippers, the third, a saddle, and from the fourth, a stunning horse. Tấm dressed herself in her delightful new garments and hurried along to the feast, arousing the curiosity and admiration of everyone present. Unfortunately the spiteful jealousy of her stepmother and sister drove her from the event and she left at once, but while crossing a stream she dropped one of her magical slippers.
The slipper flowed along the river until it reached the king's garden, and was picked up by an attendant. The king proclaimed that any maiden whose foot fit the exquisite slipper would be made his queen and every eligible lady who had went to the festival tried the slipper, including Cám, but all to no avail.
Then, unexpectedly, a beautiful stranger turned up whose foot fit the slipper perfectly, and her stepmother and Cám were shocked to discover the mysterious lady was the humble Tấm. The once shunned daughter was immediately brought to the imperial palace for a grand wedding celebration, right in front of her seething stepmother and stepsister.
Terrible Wrongdoing and a Bitter Revenge
After the royal marriage, Tấm's father threw an anniversary and being a dutiful daughter, Tấm made a short visit home to honor the anniversary with her family, despite her terrible past.
Unfortunately for the young bride, the stepmother had murderous plans and she asked Tấm to climb a tree to gather special nuts for an altar to the ancestors to honor the occasion. Tấm obeyed and when she climbed to the top of the tree, her stepmother chopped it down with an axe, so her stepdaughter fell to her death.
By tradition, Cám was married to the king in place of her late sister, but Tấm had been reincarnated into a nightingale and followed her sister into the palace to monitor the situation and keep a watchful eye on her true love.
The king remained despondent and was mad with grief over his late wife, despite Cám's best efforts to become a well-respected queen. Eventually, the nightingales constant presence and beautiful song revealed that it was an incarnation of the King's late wife Cam and it was captured and kept in a golden cage which always remained in the bereft king's presence singing him songs to try and revive his broken spirit.
Cám was incensed that her dead rival was haunting her from beyond the grave and her mother instructed her to catch the bird and feed it to a cat after skinning it and throwing it's feathers out of the palace grounds.
Tấm's restless spirit was not appeased so easily though and the feathers transformed into a shady cedar tree, that when cut down was transformed into a loom for Cám. Just as Cám thought she had escaped the spirit of her dead sister, the decorative crow on the loom began to speak with Tấm's voice and accused Cám of stealing her husband.
After the loom was burned, Tám became a persimmon tree who bore its single fruit to a destitute elderly woman on a daily basis. The old woman promised not to eat the fruit and only admire it, and in exchange for her care for the tree, she was greeted with a hot meal every time she returned home from work. One day, she hid to spy to see what was really afoot and she saw Tấm emerge from the fruit and begin to do the household chores. The old woman emerged and tore up the peel so Tấm could no longer turn back to fruit and told her to go forth and fulfill her destiny, but Tấm was too scared of the repercussions so she stayed with the crone in the forest.
One day, the king, lost while hunting, stopped by the old woman's hut and was reunited with Tám, who had hatched a murderous plan for her own safety.
Later when Tấm had returned to the palace, Cám asked her how she was still so beautiful and Tấm told her sister she should take her daily bath in boiling water. Cám did exactly what Tấm said and was boiled alive.
Cám's body was then cut into pieces and made into a jar of food which was sent to her stepmother under the guise of being a rare delicacy. One day, after most of the morsels had been devoured, a crow flew over the house and screamed:
"Delicious! The mother is eating her own daughter's flesh! Is there any left? Give me some."
The stepmother was disturbed but skeptical of the dumb beast but when she finally reached the bottom of the jar, she discovered Cám's skull inside and immediately died of shock.
Can somebody please make this into a brooding horror movie please? I would definitely watch it!