Cinderella

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!

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Web Comics

I don’t particularly consider myself a fan of graphic novels or comics, but I do love beautiful illustrations and good stories. If a good story can be told primarily (or entirely) through good illustrations, so much the better!

One of the great things the Internet has done is to make it possible for authors/illustrators/creators to make their work readily available to a much larger group of people. Here are some of the fantasy comics I have been following online.

Erstwhile

A new collaboration from Gina Biggs, Louisa Roy, and Elle Skinner (who all have separate projects of their own). There are only a few stories so far and each one is and will be based on a story from the Grimm’s collection and will be one of the lesser known stories. So no Cinderella or Little Mermaid. Gina Biggs adapts the stories and all three take turns with illustrating (and in color!). So far they’ve adapted “Farmer’s Clever Daughter”, “A Tale With a Riddle”, and are currently in the middle of “Maid Maleen”.

Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson

I literally just discovered this one a few days ago and I’m already in love with it. Created by Mark Siegel, the comic follows the adventures of the Hudson River steamboat Lorelai  in the year 1887. Initially I thought it would be a real life sort of comic, but then the mermaid showed up. The comments and additional information underneath the comic provide facts and hints about topics brought up in that day’s comic. A perfect combination of fantasy and history with really lovely black and white illustrations.

Unfortunately, I’ve also gotten interested in a handful that seem to have been discontinued. Illustrations are nice and the stories seemed like they could have gone somewhere interesting. But it was not to be. Still worth looking at but  read at your own risk.

Velharthis – An orphaned young girl begins a journey to a neighboring country to join the army. She is joined in her journey by a young man with a mysterious past. The threat of the Red Guard hangs over everything.

Ever After – Less than 60 pages to this one. Black and white primarily, with a manga look to it. Life in fairy tale land had become too unstable until the rich Mr. Humpty created an asylum where the most dangerous citizens could be taken to be “rehabilitated”. The story so far focuses on Little Red Riding Hood, the evil Dr. Crooked, and, of course, the Big Bad Wolf.

No Rest for the Wicked – I’m not sure if this has been abandoned or is just updated irregularly. Very irregularly. The last update seems to have been a year ago. I have only read the first chapter so far, but it appears to be an combination of various fairy tales and characters formed around an obscure fairy tale where the moon has been buried. The youngest daughter of a king has set off on a quest to find it.

If none of these comics appeal to you or if you are looking for more, most of these sites have “link” pages to other comics the authors like. Or you can always try the Online Comics Directory.