Cinderella may seem straightforward—girl loses shoe, finds her prince and lives happily ever after—but hundreds of iterations of the fairytale exist. In each telling of the tale, the pauper-turned-princess changes drastically, yet whether she’s a grief-stricken witch, a meek domestic goddess or Disney’s sugar-coated queen of courage and kindness, there’s still something about her that grips each generation anew. Read on to learn about the rich (and lengthy!) history surrounding Cinderella.
The first version of the Cinderella story was (supposedly) written sometime in the first century during Greco-Egyptian times. However these early iterations barely resembled today’s fairytale, as they lacked glass slippers, fairy godmothers or chatty mice. One of the first modern iterations of the fairytale emerged in China in 850 A.D. as Yeh-Shen, the story of a girl who is led to her prince by a beautiful golden slipper. Check out the televised adaptation of the story here:
Centuries later, French writer Charles Perrault penned his own version of the Cinderella story in Tales of Mother Goose. Published in 1697, Perrault’s “The Little Glass Slipper” featured a Cinderella who was both patient and kind. Though her stepsisters treated her horribly, Cinderella was able to forgive them. While Perrault’s Cinderella is considered to be the basis for many of today’s iterations, when examined more closely, his story is really a domestic fairytale concerned with the relationship between a woman and her stepsisters.
Of course, the Brothers Grimm had their own version of Cinderella, which they called Aschenputtel. In this bolder, more bizarre version of the story, Cinderella (aka Aschenputtel) is “dirty” and “deformed,” and spends much of her time with pigeons instead of mice. Cinderella is also consumed with grief from losing her mother, which leads her to dabble in the supernatural.
The Grimm fairytale is at times grotesque; at one point the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in an attempt to get the slipper to fit. Yet Cinderella is incredibly resourceful throughout the story. She grows a magical tree from a small twig and her tears, and calls on the power of a flock of birds to finish her chores in a timely manner. Though different from mainstream versions, this telling has remained a fan favorite, especially for those who find Perrault’s version too vanilla.