Aschenputtel or Cinderella or Little Glass Slipper
Aschenputtel is original title of today most popular story in the world, more known as The Cinderella or Little Glass Slipper. Did we say original? Well, we are dealing with at least fifteen hundred years old fairy tale and it would be a bit arrogant statement to proclaim the Grimms’ version for an original.
If we have to name only one of today about thirteen hundred (!) known versions of Cinderella story as the original, that would be Perrault’s Cendrillon from his collection Contes de ma mère l’Oye from 1697. While he probably borrowed the plot from already printed Basile’s Zezzola (Pentameron), he added several significant elements by which virtually everybody recognizes Cinderella even today:
– the fairy godmother who arranges Cinderella’s arrival to the ball with her magic: a pumpkin becomes a carriage, mice horses, lizards servants, …;
– glass slippers (in some earlier versions they were made of fur or gold or the material wasn’t specified);
– Cinderella forgives her wicked stepsisters and even helps them to marry noblemen.
Perrault’s version was used for a popular animated movie by Disney Company and somehow standardized this fairy tale, but Grimms’ version is beautiful too. From the dramatic point of view, it’s stronger than Perrault’s, but brothers probably paid too much attention to the harsh situation in Cinderella’s life. While the readers enjoy her award at the end of the story, it has a few very intense moments (cutting the toes and heels, pecking the eyes of stepsisters) and may be too spiritual on the expense to the pure magic.
Here are the main points, where The Aschenputtel by Brothers Grim differs from Perrault’s ‘standard’:
– we learn much more about her mother, who plays the role of the fairy godmother from Cendrillon;
– Cinderella spends a lot of time by the tree which represents the soul of her dead mother and eventually, the tree gives her everything she needs for the ball, including the slippers (gold in this case);
– birds have a very important role as Cinderella’s helpers, protectors, and punishers of her evil sisters.
For all the reasons above we should not be surprised by the fact most publishers and illustrators preferred the Little glass slippers instead of Aschenputtel. Most, not all.
A German illustrator Georg Albert Stroedel (1870-1938) illustrated Aschneputtel for Josef Scholz Verlags in 1910 or 1911. It’s a full sized standalone edition with six full paged color illustrations where the artist diplomatically skipped the most intense scenes.
Let’s go through the story together:
Cinderella’s mother dies. Her father remarries. Cinderella gets a stepmother and stepsisters. After a while, he leaves the home and asks everybody what to bring them on return. Cinderella wants just a branch and plants it, so a new tree slowly starts to grow out of it.
Cinderella’s best friends are birds. She has a lot of hard work to do and little helpers are always there for her. Brothers Grimm used birds in several of their fairy tales.
The prince invites all the girls in the kingdom to his ball. One of the invitees will become his new wife. Cinderella wants to go, but her stepmother confronts her with a seemingly impossible task – she has to clean the lentils thrown in the ashes. When she manages to clean them, she is denied the permission because she doesn’t have a proper dress.
Cinderella gets the dress from the birds on the magic tree. Her father, stepmother, and stepsisters have already left and don’t recognize her when she arrives at the ball in most precious gowns of all. The prince has eyes only for her. But she escapes and he doesn’t even know her name.
The scene with Cinderella going to the ball in disguise repeats two more times. She always escapes. On the last occasion, the prince finds one of the golden shoes. She lost it on the steps.
The prince tries to find a foot fitting the lost shoe. This is how his bride was finally revealed!
Unfortunately not much is known about the illustrator, so we’ll add more info when we got it.
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