Known to all, the story of Cinderella has crossed the centuries and continents. The tale has hundreds of versions, some of which are far from the fairy tale universe retranscribed by the Disney studios in 1950. Here are some of them.
Cinderella by Charles Perrault, the most famous
In 1697, the French writer and member of the French Academy Charles Perrault published his version of the famous tale: Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper. A sweet and enchanting version which, even today, remains the most famous version: a widowed father who marries an ugly woman who is already the mother of two horrible daughters, a benevolent yet mistreated heroine, a fairy godmother who is a good fairy, a pumpkin that turns into a carriage, mice into horses and lizards into lackeys, glass slippers, an enchantment that breaks at midnight, a prince who falls in love and tries to find his beautiful thanks to one of the shoes, and, finally, a happy marriage between the Prince and Cinderella, punctuated by forgiveness to the stepmother and her two daughters, because the goodness of the heroine is without equal.
References are notably taken up in the famous animated film of the Disney studios.
Cinderella of the Grimm brothers, known as Aschenputtel, is the most dreadful
If Charles Perrault’s version depicts a happy ending where rancor and revenge have no place, the Grimm brothers’ version proposes an ending symbolized more by punishment than by forgiveness.
In this version, called Aschenputtel, there are no fairies but rather wonderful birds with magical powers. They are the ones who help Aschenputtel with his daily tasks. And they are the ones who allow her to go to the ball three times, helping her to complete her work and offering her sublime outfits, each one more beautiful than the next. In the end, you know it: Aschenputtel loses a shoe, the prince finds it and decides to make all the girls of the kingdom try it on to find her. Before finding Aschenputtel, the latter lingers on his two ugly stepsisters. And while the first one cuts a toe to make her foot fit into the famous shoe, the second one takes off a piece of her heel. Alerted by the blood, the prince realizes that neither of them is his beloved, and finally finds Aschenputtel.
The sordid side of this version could stop there, but it is not. Invited to the wedding of the prince and Aschenputtel, the half-sisters are punished by the birds who then poke out their eyes, and thus end up blind for the rest of their lives. Another version, a German-Czech one, condemns the two sisters to dance with red-hot metal shoes… until they die, succumbing to the pain.
Variations of Cinderella around the world
Throughout the world, the story of Cinderella knows many versions. Transcribed by the Roman historian Claude Elien in the third century, a Greek version tells the story of the young Rhodope, taken to Egypt to become a slave. One day, while she was bathing, a bird stole her shoe and dropped it at the feet of a pharaoh named Psammetius. Amazed by the delicacy of the shoe, the latter decides to marry the woman to whom it belongs.
A Russian version called “The Wonderful Birch Tree”, is about a young girl whose mother dies, and is reincarnated as a birch tree. And it is this magical tree that helps Cinderella with her household chores and helps her get to the ball. But her stepmother, who is a witch, casts a spell on the prince so that he will marry her ugly daughter. When the future king finds out about her, the ugly stepsister is pushed into a river and turns into a poisonous plant. Despite yet another attempt at sabotage, the stepmother finally gives in, and Cinderella marries her prince after giving birth to a baby boy.
In Jean-Louis le Craver’s Tibetan version, Cinderella and her mother live with two demonic daughters. To stay with them, the young girl kills her mother, who then turns into a cow. A big mistake, of course, as she becomes their slave. With the help of her mother (turned into a cow, that is), Cinderella manages to survive the mistreatment of the two sisters and to be found by the prince.
In Zezolla, the Italian version by Giambattista Basile, the heroine kills her dreadful stepmother so that her father will remarry the mistress she loves so much. But the teacher, who was hiding her game well, turns out to be an equally Machiavellian woman, mother of 6 girls. Zezolla ends up receiving help from a dove and, more particularly, from the fairy of the island of Sardinia. This one offers him a magic date tree, a bucket, and a golden shovel, as well as a silk handkerchief, to cultivate it. It is thanks to this same date tree that Zezolla obtains sumptuous outfits allowing her to go to the ball and to make the prince’s heart capsize. The ending remains unchanged: a lost shoe, a quest for the princess, and a happy marriage.
A Corsican version of Cinderella
Finally, Cinderella, the Corsican version of Cinderella, tells the story of a young girl whose widowed father remarries a treacherous woman, who gives birth to an ugly and evil little girl. Shunned by her father, and mistreated by her stepmother, Cinderella, fortunately, receives the help of her fairy godmother to obtain her happy ending.
With the help of a magic nut, a magic hazelnut, and a magic almond, the heroine receives a bronze outfit, a silver outfit, and a gold outfit. Three balls and a lost slipper later, Cinderella is found by the prince and proposed to. Before the wedding takes place, however, the dreadful stepmother tries to burn Genderella in an oven. But, warned by her godmother, Cinderella manages to foil her stepmother’s plan. And while her stepsister takes her place in the oven, Cinderella marries her prince!