The Stepsister's Tale: The Origins of Cinderella

Posted June 9, 2014 by Sara | Novel Novice 2 Comments

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Our June Book of the Month, The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett, is a wholly unique twist on the classic Cinderella story. But most of us know Cinderella from the Disney incarnation, or other popular adaptations. So today, we thought we’d take a deeper look at the original story.

Once Upon A Time

Cinderella_-_Anne_AndersonThe earliest known published version of Cinderella was in 1634, from Giambattista Basile‘s “Story of Stories.” Basile’s version of the story is:

A widowed prince has a daughter, Zezolla (the Cinderella figure), who is tended by a beloved governess. The governess, with Zezolla’s help, persuades the prince to marry her. The governess then brings forward six daughters of her own, who abuse Zezolla, and send her into the kitchen to work as a servant. The prince goes into the island of Sardinia, meets a fairy who gives presents to his daughter, and brings back for her, a golden spade, a golden bucket, a silken napkin, and a date seedling. The girl cultivates the tree, and when the king gives a ball, Zezolla appears dressed richly by a fairy living in the date tree. The king falls in love with her, but Zezolla runs away before he can find out who she is. Twice Zezolla escapes the king and his servants. The third time, the king’s servant captures one of her slippers. The king invites all of the maidens in the land to a feast with a shoe-test, identifies Zezolla after the shoe jumps from his hand to her foot, and eventually marries her. (Source)

Fairy Godmothers & Glass Slippers

Cinderella_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19993The most-well known version of the folk tale, however, was published by Charles Perrault in 1697. Originally published as Cendrillion, Perrault’s version of the story first introduced audiences to three key elements most often associated with the Cinderella story:

  1. Pumpkins
  2. A Fairy Godmother
  3. And Glass Slippers

Other than the addition of talking mice, Disney appears to have followed this version of the story very closely for their well-known animated retelling.

Grimm Retelling

Cinderella was also later included in the Grimm brothers’ collection of fairy tales, originally called Aschenputtel — later translated into English as “Cinderella.”

In the Grimm version, Cinderella’s fairy godmother is replaced by a wishing tree, that grows on her mother’s grave.

Famous Retellings

CinderellaCinderella has been retold countless times — in opera, ballet, theater, film, television, and literature. The character has also been featured in other creative works, such as the Stephen Sondheim musical “Into the Woods” and the ABC show “Once Upon a Time.”

Tune in later this week for more well-known Cinderella adaptations, and appearances in YA lit.

Sara | Novel Novice
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