“Cinderella” from Children’s and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm
1950 Cinderella directed by Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson (Disney)
1998 Ever After: A Cinderella Story directed by Andy Tennant (Twentieth Century Fox)
Most people are familiar with the story of Cinderella in one form or another (according to Philip Pullman in Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, “Cinderella” is perhaps the most popular folk tale of all time), and I think it is safe to say that most of these people are familiar with Charles Perrault’s version of the tale, whether they know it or not. You see, it was Perrault’s version from 1697 that inspired the 1950 Disney classic.
So in case you have never read the Grimm version of this tale, here are a few key differences to catch you up:
- Cinderella’s father doesn’t die.
- There are three balls that she attends as part of a festival for the prince to find a bride.
- The fairy godmother is a tree (i.e. not a woman with a wand singing “Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo”)
- The stepsisters chop off pieces of their feet to make the shoe fit.
Yes, you read that last point correctly—grim indeed, eh? Perrault’s version was definitely much sweeter, even before Disney gave it an extra dose of sugar. But self-mutilation aside, the point I find most worrisome is that the father is STILL ALIVE. He’s just there letting his only daughter be treated like a slave and made to sleep in the fireplace—and he tells the prince she is deformed! Why does he do this?!
I wasn’t overly fond of Pullman’s translation of “Cinderella” (the dialogue feels too modernized, although the rhymes are nicer); however, I did find his commentary very interesting. He postulates that this is a not rags-to-riches tale at its heart, but rather a story of sibling rivalry (127). Huh. The most frightening detail for me in this story is that the sisters are blinded for their mistreatment of their sister—talk about extreme punishments. I mean, they are already missing chunks of their feet…
I also enjoyed Pullman’s observation that “In our centrally heated homes today, when few children have ever seen a cinder or know what one is, Cinderella just sounds like a pretty name” (127), when in fact it is quite an insult. We never do get her real name, and even Disney used the nickname as her birth name. Something to think about.
Though I do enjoy Disney’s version of the Cinderella tale, my favourite version is without a doubt Ever After starring Drew Barrymore (and no it’s not just because the Cinderella character’s name is Danielle—that’s just a happy coincidence). I’ve watched this story so many times I’ve lost count and can easily mouth the words along with the movie like a groupie. A fun fact: if you’re paying attention, it actually incorporates the Grimm brothers into the opening and closing scenes. I think what I like most about this version (in addition to the love story, of course) is that this Cinderella has a backbone. She is spirited and, although she is forced to be subservient, she’ll do whatever she needs to in order to keep her home—her father’s home—from falling apart. The focus isn’t on her domestic role. In my totally unbiased (ha!) opinion, if you’re going to watch a Cinderella story, make it Ever After. It’s just wonderful!
As for the Grimm’s version, I like it because it has the shock factor with all the gore. That being said, the father is just too despicable for me to rate this tale as a favourite Grimm story. I think it is a much better story with the father taken out of the picture. Disney got that detail right.
What is your favourite Cinderella story? Why? Share your answers in comments.
- The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, 3rd Edition translated by Jack Zipes (Bantam, 2003)
- Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (Viking)