Cinderella Main Page

Cinderella History
Part of The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages
by Heidi Anne Heiner

Cinderella is easily one of the most well-known stories around the world. The themes from the story appear in the folklore of many cultures. Sources disagree about how many versions of the tale exist, with numbers ranging from 340 to over 1,500 if all of the picture book and musical interpretations are included. The tale has its own Aarne Thompson classification which is 510A. The tale always centers around a kind, but persecuted heroine who suffers at the hands of her stepfamily after the death of her mother. Her father is either absent or neglectful depending on the version. The heroine has a magical guardian who helps her triumph over her persecutors and receive her fondest wish by the end of the tale. The guardian is sometimes a representative of the heroine's dead mother. Most of the tales include an epiphany sparked by an article of clothing (usually a shoe) that causes the heroine to be recognized for her true worth.

The earliest recorded version of the tale comes from China. It was written down by Tuan Ch'eng-shih in the middle of the ninth century AD (850-60 Common Era). The tone of the story implies that its readers and listeners were already well-acquainted with the story by the time it was written down. The heroine of the Chinese tale is Yeh-shen. There is no fairy godmother in this earliest known version. A magical fish is the helper to Yeh-shen instead.However, a golden shoe is used to identify Yeh-shen to the prince who wants to marry her.
Although a reference to the story exists in 16th century German literature, the next written version of the story comes from Charles Perrault in his Contes de ma Mere L'Oye in 1697. From this version, we received the fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage, the animal servants, and the glass slippers. Perrault recorded the story that was told to him by storytellers while adding these touches for literary effect. Some scholars think Perrault confused "vair" (French for "ermine or fur") with "verre" (French for "glass") to account for Cinderella's admittedly uncomfortable footwear.
Perrault's version has a more humane ending with Cinderella
finding husbands for her sisters.The Grimm Brothers' German version,
known as Aschenputtel or Ash Girl does not have a fairy godmother. The heroine plants a tree on her mother's grave from which all of the magical help appears in the form of a white dove. The stepsisters have their eyes pecked by birds from the tree to punish them for their cruelty. Perrault's version is considerably more forgiving than this version.
In modern times, the tale of Cinderella has inspired countless picture books, musicals, novels, and dreams of little girls. I have included some of the versions on the Tales Similar to Cinderella Page. Versions of the tale have been collected and printed from Vietnam, Italy, Egypt, Australia, and the Algonquin Indians, to name a few. The most comprehensive list of versions of the tale in print and for sale can be found on the Internet at this external site: Shen's Publications. I would also recommend these three external sites for online versions of the tale:

The Cinderella Project
University of Southern Mississippi

Grimm Brothers' Home Page: Cinderella

Sources for the Analysis and Interpretation
of Folk and Fairy Tales

In: Perrault's Histories ....
London: J. Pote & R. Montagu, 1729

Beauty's to the sex a treasure,
We still admire it without measure,
And never yet was any known
By still admiring weary grown.
But that thing, which we call good grace,
Exceeds by far a handsome face;
Its charms by far surpass the other,
And this was what her good godmother
Bestowed on CINDERILLA fair,
Whom she instructed with such care,
And gave her such a graceful mien,
That she became thereby a Queen.
For thus (may ever truth prevail)
We draw our moral from this Tale.
This quality, fair ladies, know
Prevails much more, you'll find it so,
T'engage and captivate a heart,
Than a fine head dressed up with art;
'Tis the true gift of heaven and fate,
Without it none in any state
Effectual any thing can do;
But with it all things well and true.

A Great advantage 'tis, no doubt, to man,
To have wit, courage, birth, good sense and brain,
And other such like Qualities, which we
Received from heaven's kind hand and destiny.
But none of these rich graces from above,
In your advancement in the world will prove
Of any use, if Godsires make delay,
Or Godmothers your merit to display.
Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper

New York: W.M. Mather, 1830s

On Cinderella's bridal day,
The Prince he gave a grand gala,
Drest in the splendor of the East,
The guests assembled at the feast,
The lovely fair one is here seen,
With modest and becoming mien,
Kind fortune did at last prevail,
But I'll relate the pleasing tale.

Episode 1
In early years of sire bereft,
To her step sisters she was left,

Episode 2
But they cruelly did use her,
Made her a slave and oft abused her,

Each night they at the ball or play,
Would go drest out so fine and gay,
While she would to the cinders creep,
There sit down to sigh and weep.

Episode 3
There was a splendid ball at court,
To which the sisters did resort,
Poor Cinderella wished to go,
In fact she told the tyrants so,

She asked them for to lend a dress,
But they did cruel scorn express,
Yet she good nattered did not pout,
And helped to deck their persons out,
Scarce had they gone when there came in,

Episode 4
Her Godmother the Fairy Queen,
Said she I your desires know,
Cease to weep and you shall go.

The wand was raised and then behold,
A pumpkin is a Coach of Gold,
Six mice are stately horses made,
A rat as coachman is displayed.
The footmen are from lizards got,
Found behind the watering pot,
No equipage more fine could be,
I can't go in these rags said she.

The words scarce spoke when in a trice,
No princess could appear more nice,
And the whole for to complete,
Glass slippers did adorn her feet.

Episode 5

Her beauty did the court delight,

Episode 6
She went again another night,
But on the third the simple maid,
Forgot what her Godmother said,

Return before tis twelve at night,
Or you'll be in your former plight,
But the King's son so charmed her mind,
That she all prudence left behind.
[PAGE] In anxious haste to get away,
She lost her slipper I heard say,
The prince who sought for her in vain,
Fell sick nor could he health regain,

Episode 7
The King he caused a proclamation,
To be made thro'out the nation,
That she who could the slipper wear,
Should soon espouse the royal heir.

Episode 8
It fitted none but Cinderella,
Who produced its tiny fellow,
Again touched by the fairy wand,
She shone in jewels very grand.

Episode 9
The prince received the lovely fair,
And bade adieu to sad despair,
The sisters did for pardon crave,
Which she sweetly to them gave.

Source: Original in de Grummond Collection

Video: With a wave of Disney's wand, 'Cinderella' returns

Beyond Cinderella

Cinderella Ball at New York St. Regis Roof

The following illustration is by Edmund Dulac.
To see the art full size, please click on the image.

These illustrations are from Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book (1889). They are by G. P. Jacomb Hood.

The next illustrations are by Gustave Dore.
To see full scale versions of these images click to visit the Gustave Dore illustration page by Mary Louise Ennis at Wesleyan University.

These illustrations are by Arthur Rackham.
They appeared in C. S. Evan's Cinderella (1919)

This illustration is by Jesse Willcox Smith (1863-1935). The full size version is available for viewing at the Elizabeth Nesbitt Room's Illustrators Page. A great biography on Jesse Willcox Smith and samples of her illustrations are available on this site. If you click on the picture, a link will take you directly to the full size version of this illustration.

Who's Been Tampering With Fairy Tales?

Cinderella Stories

Exploring the Tale of Cinderella

Indian Cinderella -- European Myth Values

SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages: Cinderella History

Cinderella signed (Sign-Writing for Deaf)

Cinderella stories

Don't Cry for Me, Cinderella

Ever After: A Cinderella Story Unofficial Home Page

Out of Sleep

"Scene from Cinderella"

Cinderella Around the World and Stories

Disney Animation Art - Cinderella

Cinderella's Playland

Cinderella, Cinderella, Cinderella

Cinderella pictures

Disney Cinderella

Disney Tour

To the Disney Index