Who doesn’t love the story of Cinderella? It’s the American Dream with fairies and princes. And there are enough variations out there to please almost everyone.
I suppose I should begin with the most well known version by Charles Perrault. Here we have the basics of the story, the young girl forced to work and eventually raised to princess status through attending balls clandestinely. You can read a version of it here, complete with rather interesting drawings by Harry Clarke. Perrault’s version is where we get the pumpkins and mice that Disney used.
And speaking of Disney, their movie probably did more for the fairy tale than anything else could have. Heavily based on Perrault’s version, Cinderella has the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, the fairy godmother, a coach from a pumpkin and horses from mice. She also loses the all-important glass slipper. Of course, this being Disney, they do add a few unique touches of their own, such as talking mice and catchy songs.
A bit different from the Perrault version is the one you’ll find in the Grimm collection. There are actually two different versions of the Cinderella story there. The first, Aschenputtel, is similar to the Perrault version. Except here, the fairy godmother is actually the spirit of Cinderella’s mother in a tree. The good things are brought to Cinderella by the birds she is kind to, and the same birds peck out the eyes of the cruel stepsisters at the end. You can read Aschenputtel here.
The second version is titled “Allerleirauh” and means something along the lines of “many furs” in German. Theses stories are my favorite because there is no magic, merely a clever and resourceful young princess. It usually begins with the dying queen forcing her husband to promise never to marry again unless the woman is as beautiful as her. A few years later their daughter grows into a woman just as beautiful as her mother and so the king, her father, declares he will marry her. Some of the stories I have read get around this creepy incestuous part by the princess being promised to an ogre instead. But the princess demands three dresses before she will marry: one must be as gold as the sun, another as silvery as the moon, and the last as dazzling as the stars. She also requests a coat made with a piece of fur from every animal in the kingdom (hence the name). She runs away with these and a few other treasures to a neighboring kingdom where, after winning the prince with her kindness, beauty, and ability to make good soup, she lives happily ever after. My favorite version of this story is the book Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck and illustrated by Anita Lobel. Another one I like is the absolutely fantastic Deerskin by Robin McKinley. This one has the incest in it and turns the heroine into an almost goddess at times. Actually based on a Perrault fairy tale called “Donkeyskin”, the tone of this story fits the menace in the Grimm version perfectly. Be warned- there is a rape scene so this is not one for young children. I suppose I’ll end with another movie version of the Cinderella story, Ever After. It stars Drew Barrymore as the Cinderella character and Dougray Scott as the prince. It follows the Perrault/Aschenputtel version with the wicked stepfamily but the fairy godmother turns out to be Leonardo daVinci. Pretty dresses, pretty locations and a sweetly romantic plot make this one of my favorites. Plus, she likes to read!