10 Disney Fairy Tales and Their Original Versions, Compared

5. Cinderella

The version you know

Cinderella is the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, she lives with him, her step mother and two step sisters on her father’s estate, however after his death her step mother takes over the estate and begin to mistreat and abuse Cinderella, reducing her to little more than a slave in her own home. Despite her mistreatment Cinderella grows into a kind young woman, making friends with the birds and mice that live around the estate.

One day the King decides to host a ball with the hopes that his son the Prince will find a suitable wife, the invitation says “every eligible maiden” so Cinderella asks her step mother is she too may be allowed to attend the ball, to which her step mother agrees so long as she finishes all her chores and finds something nice to wear. Cinderella wears an old dress of her mother’s and her animal friends help her fix it up with some beads and materials discarded by her step sisters. When her step sisters see her dress and realise their old items have been used in it they rip the dress to pieces and leave Cinderella in what is left of the dress as they attend the ball.

As Cinderella sits sobbing, giving up hope of attending the ball her Fairy Godmother appears and transforms the remainder of Cinderella’s dress into a beautiful ball gown with a pair of glass slippers, a pumpkin becomes a carriage, the mice become horses, her horse becomes a coachman and her dog the footman. However the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella the spell will only last until midnight and after the twelfth strike of the clock everything will turn back to what it was, and Cinderella leaves for the castle.

At the ball the Prince rejects all the young women who have gathered in the hopes of becoming his bride, that is until he sees Cinderella, and as in all good fairy tales the two fall in love at first sight and spend the rest of the night dancing alone around the castle grounds. Once the clock begins to chime midnight Cinderella flees the castle for her carriage, losing one of her glass slippers on her way, she manages to get away from the castle before the spell breaks and everything returns to what it was, with the exception of her glass slippers.

The Prince keeps the slipper Cinderella left on the castle steps and the Grand Duke begins to tour the kingdom, calling at every house until her finds the woman whose feet fit the glass slipper.  As her step mother and step sisters begin preparing for the Duke’s arrival, Cinderella hums the sing played at the ball and her step mother overhearing this realises Cinderella is the mysterious woman from the ball and locks her in the attic.

With a little help from her furry friends Cinderella is eventually able to escape from the attic just as the Duke is about to leave the house and as he rushes to her to try the glass slipper on her step mother trips him up causing him to drop and smash the slipper. Cinderella then produces the other glass slipper, much to the horror of her step mother and step sisters and the delight of the Duke as he places the slipper on her foot and it fits perfectly.

Cinderella and the Prince are then married and live happily ever after.

The original version

Over the years there have been many versions of Cinderella written, dating back as far as ancient Greece, although it was a lost sandal rather than a glass slipper. However the two versions that are most closely related to the modern Disney version of the story are the French story Cendrillon by Charles Perrault and the German folk tale Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm.

One of the main differences between these early versions and the Disney version is that Cinderella’s father is alive in both and turns a blind eye to the mistreatment of his daughter, at times referring to her not as his own daughter but as the daughter of his first wife. In Cendrillon he is noted as being an absent father and completely controlled by his wife whereas he has an active role in several scenes in Aschenputteland no explanation is given as to why he allows the abuse of his daughter.
The other main difference is that in Cendrillonthere are two balls thrown on two consecutive nights and in Aschenputtel there are three balls over three nights and it is only on the last night that Cinderella loses one of her shoes.

With the exception of the second ball and Cinderella’s father still being alive, Disney’s version of Cinderella follows Cendrillon fairly closely, Cinderella is helped by a Fairy Godmother to get ready and attend both balls with a pumpkin becoming a carriage and mice becoming the horses. At the end when Cinderella marries the Prince she forgives her step sisters and they are her bridesmaids and both end up marrying Lords.

Aschenputtel on the other hand is a lot darker tale and Disney doesn’t seem to borrow too much from it other than the helping hand of nature. Cinderella’s father has remarried and her step sisters have taken favour over herself as far as her father is concerned, every day she visits her mother’s grave and prays that her circumstances will improve. One day her father visits a fair promising his daughters luxurious gifts when he returned, the eldest daughter asked for beautiful dresses, the second for jewels, but all Cinderella asked for was the twig that knocked his hat off his head. While her step sisters received their beautiful gifts Cinderella received a hazel twig which she plants at her mother’s grave and over the years it grows into a tree.

When it comes to the balls being thrown Cinderella is always given tasks to complete before she may go, when she completes them in time (with the help of some doves sent by her mother from heaven) her step mother doubles the task to ensure she can’t go and eventually leaves Cinderella to attend the ball with her daughters. Cinderella goes to her mother’s grave to cry and pray and a white bird appears with a dress and shoes and with the warning she must leave the ball by midnight, the second night a silver dress and shoes appear, on the third a gold dress and shoes, it is one of the gold shoes she loses on her way out of the castle.

When the Prince visits the house trying to find the woman whose foot fits the gold slipper the first step sister cuts off her toes so her feet will fit, (as her mother has told her when she is royalty she will have no need for feet as there will be someone to carry her around) the Prince falls for the trick but on the way back to the castle he is informed by two doves of the girl’s deception and he returns to the house where the second step sister tries on the shoe having cut off part of her heel so it will fit. Again the Prince believes her to be the true owner of the slipper and leaves with her, only to be informed by the same pair of doves that she too has tricked him. When he returns to the house again he asks if there is another young woman living in the house and is told they have a kitchen maid (Cinderella) and the Prince asks for her to try on the slipper, when she does and it fits he realises she is the girl he danced with at the balls.

The two marry and Cinderella’s sisters are the bridemaids, however the same pair of white doves that told the prince the step sisters had tricked him appear and peck out the eyes of the step sisters and they are forced to live out the rest of their days as blind beggars whilst Cinderella and the Prince live happily ever after.

In some versions instead of having their eyes pecked out the sisters are forced to wear red hot iron boots and dance themselves to death, much like the Wicked Queen in Snow White.

Kat Lawson
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