The Cinderella Story
Disney brought one of their classic works back to the big screen in 2015, with a live-action interpretation of Cinderella.
This Cinderella movie is more or less the same story seen in the animated film from 1950 that everyone knows and loves (and its two direct-to-video sequels from the 2000s that fewer people know and love), save for a few key points. For example, Cinderella and the Prince unknowingly meet before the ball, and the Fairy Godmother is more of a central character.
Actually, the “Cinderella Story” as we know it has changed and evolved quite a lot through the ages, even before Disney existed. Here’s a quick look at a few of the original legends and fairy tales that eventually gave us Cinderella.
History of the Cinderella Story
A while back, we rounded up a whole bunch of facts about the Disney Princesses that you probably didn’t know – 65 of them, to be exact. For those playing along at home, that works out to five facts for each of the 13 princesses.
For our friend Cinderella, we focused on things like her impossibly dainty feet (size 4 ½, which is, quite frankly, one of the most ridiculous details in a story that also involves fairy magic and talking mice) and the lengths to which Disney went to make the 1950 film (over 400 auditions were held to find Cindy’s voice actress). There’s quite a lot that we left out, though, which is understandable given how long Cinderella stories have been around.
Dating all the way back to the year 7 B.C., this tale was first recorded by Strabo in Geographica. That’s right: not only does Cinderella predate Jesus, but her story was first written in an encyclopedia about geography. So, that’s weird.
Strabo, who was basically the original Walt Disney.
The story is about a common Greek courtesan, Rhodopis, who loses a shoe while she is bathing. An eagle carries the shoe to the King of Egypt, Psammetichus, who declares that he will marry its owner. After a long search, the King finds Rhodopis, and they live happily ever after. Hooray!
Rhodopis didn’t feature any evil family members, but this is the first version of the story that has the wicked stepmother and stepsisters in it.
Giambattista Basile, inventor of the handlebar mustache.
Giambattista Basile – part-time poet, part-time Neapolitan soldier – is the one who assembled Cenerentola into an anthology along with early versions of other fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. The Brothers Grimm actually called Basile’s work “one of the finest compilations of fairy tales ever made,” which is high praise coming from them.
The Cinderella character in Cenerentola is Zezolla, the daughter of a widowed prince. The prince brings in a governess to help take care of Zezolla, and Zezolla persudes the prince to marry the governess.
After the wedding, the governess brings in her own six daughters, who basically make Zezolla’s life miserable. Not only do they force her to act as a servant (in true Cinderella fashion), but they literally use her as a punching bag, too. It’s okay, though, because this is a fairy tale.
Zezolla receives a magic date tree from her father after he travels to Sardinia, and the fairy living inside of it dresses Zezolla in a gorgeous gown (with matching slippers, obvs) just in time for the King’s grandest ball of the year. Zezolla meets the King, Zezolla loses a shoe, King finds shoe, King finds Zezolla though shoe-based detective work, Zezolla and King live happily ever after. Hooray!
Charles Perrault, international playboy.
Cendrillon, written by Charles Perrault, is the most popular version of the Cinderella story, and the one that Disney’s 1950 Cinderella is most closely based upon. Everything from the midnight magic trope to the transforming animals and pumpkin carriage is just about identical, so there’s not too much to say. This is where the character name “Cinderella” comes from, too, although it’s just a nickname for the character in this story and not her actual birth name.
Cinderella goes to the ball, Cinderella loses her slipper, Prince finds slipper, Prince finds Cinderella, Cinderella and Prince live happily ever after. Hooray!
Fun fact: there’s an Asian horror movie from 2006 called Cinderella that’s allegorically – and gorily – related to this version of the Cinderella story. When it comes to gore, some plot points of Aschenputtel would put Saw to shame. You’ve probably heard that the Brothers Grimm didn’t pull any punches when it came to the more brutal sides of their stories, and this was definitely no exception.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, esteemed fairy tale authors and psychopaths.
Skipping ahead to the scene in which the Prince attempts to find the Cinderella character by testing lost slippers on different ladies’ feet, things start getting violent. The stepmother and stepsisters quickly work out that their giant hooves aren’t going to fit into the shoe, so they cut off their heels and toes to make them fit. When you’re rich and married to a prince, who needs feet anyway? You’ll have people to do all of the walking and stuff for you.
Their plan actually manages to fool the Prince, but not all of Aschenputtel’s animal friends. The birds chirp out a cheerful rhyme, telling the Prince to check the shoes for the copious amounts of blood inside, which he does.
Prince kicks stepsisters to the curb, Prince finds Ashenputtel, Ashenputtel and Prince live happily ever after, maimed family members are forced to live on the streets where their eyes get eaten out by pigeons. Hooray!