In 1950, Walt Disney released his animated musical fantasy film, Cinderella. It was his greatest hit since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it’s considered one of the best American animated films ever made.
“Cinderella” is the story of a young maiden who is abused and mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. Nevertheless, she is able to overcome her misfortunes and preserve her optimism throughout her young life. When a royal ball is announced, with the help of her animal friends, and later on with the magical help of her fairy godmother, Cinderella is able to go to the ball and dance with the prince. Yet, she’s told that on the stroke of midnight the spell would break, so she hurries out of the castle leaving behind a glass slipper. A glass slipper that changed her fate.
“Cinderella” is probably one of the oldest fairy tales found today. Since the 9th century, the story has transformed in many many ways, and according to Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales, as of today, there are more than 700 variations of the story. 700!! The version we mostly know is basically a retelling of retellings of retellings of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon. And who do we owe that to? Of course, Walt Disney.
Walt Disney’s Cinderella was based on Charles Perrault’s version. Although, in this version, there are two royal balls on two different days and once Cinderella’s stepsisters discover that she was the beautiful maiden who danced with the prince, they ask Cinderella for forgiveness and of course, sweet Cinderella forgives them. Cinderella marries the prince and her stepsisters marry two great lords of the court.
There are many other versions recorded before Perrault’s. It is believed that the earliest version found was in a Chinese book written in the 850-860 A.D. Extremely old, right? In this version she is called “Yen-Shen”, and it isn’t a fairy godmother that helps her, it’s a 10-foot-long fish.
As to her name, it really has evolved throughout the years. There’s Yen-Shen, also, in Madame d’Aulnoy’s 1721 French version she’s called Finetta, in an 1878 Scandinavian version she’s called Rashin Coatie, and in an 1890 Irish version she’s called Trembling. Though, many stories refer to her as we do today, because in multiple versions her rags were always dirty with ashes and dirt. Hence the term “Cinder-ella”.
Also, her shoes weren’t always made of glass. In other versions her shoes were made of fur, satin, gold, and many other materials. Moreover, help didn’t always come from a fairy godmother. It also came from different types of animals, inanimate objects, or supernatural beings.
Another example which I certainly can’t forget is the Grimm Brothers’ version, in which the stepsisters have a very unfortunate ending with their toes and heels cut off, and their eyes pecked out by birds. The last line of the story stating, “And so they were condemned to go blind for the rest of their days because of their wickedness and falsehood.” Gruesome, huh?
So you see, this fairy tale has had many many versions throughout the years. And while Disney’s version might preserve most of the story’s essence, we can’t always rely on Disney’s sugarcoating. True, there are more than 700 versions found up to date, so who knows if we’ll ever find out if the very first oral version of the story is sweet and happy or gruesome and cruel.
Finally, as of today there have been various film adaptations of the story. The most popular one in my opinion is the 1998 film Ever After. And in May 2014, Disney presented a teaser trailer of the next Cinderella version that will be released in 2015.
Well, until our next once upon a time… Adieu 😉