Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday is for Fairytales: Cinderella vs. Cinderella

Friday is for Fairytales is a meme hosted by Irena (me) at This Miss loves to Read. Every Friday, you can choose a fairytale you love, or simply find interesting or haunting, and review it or simply say why you like it so much, or why it has captured your attention. Instead of a fairytale, you can choose a favourite fairytale character and describe him/her and tell us why you like them, or you can simply share an experience connected to a fairytale. Fairytales can be old and modern, written by a known author or anonymous, written down or passed on orally, short or in novel form (like re-writings of fairytales), international or typical for your country alone. In this case, present your country’s fairytale and we can all become acquainted with a new fairytale. So, make a post every Friday that is connected to the world of fairytales, be it a review, a character description or your own fairytale experience. Let’s celebrate fairytales and share our love for them.

My post today is about: Cinderella vs. Cinderella

To me, the story of Cinderella remains one of the most romantic fairy-tales ever written and it’s also a tale about how anything can happen in this world. I know the version written by the brothers Grimm by heart, more or less, but the other day, I read the version by Charles Perrault after a very long time and decided to discuss the differences between both versions and decide which version I prefer and why.

The father’s marriage: Both stories start with Cinderella’s widowed father marrying again and this marriage brings Cinderella much suffering, as she is reduced to the state of a slave girl by her new stepmother and her two spoiled daughters. However, there is a difference. In Perrault’s version, Cinderella’s father is controlled by his wife so much that he never notices how much his child must suffer. In Grimms’ version, Cinderella’s father is very good to his daughter and loves her, but he simply does nothing. He is not controlled, just inactive. Both fathers are terrible, in my opinion, but in Perrault’s version the father at least has a reason, although a lame one, not to help his daughter. In the version by the brothers Grimm, he is terribly passive and that’s even worse than fear in my eyes. I guess Perrault’s version wins, but both fathers are bad.

The ball – getting to the ball: The ball takes place in both fairy-tales. In Perrault’s version, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother enables the girl to go, although her stepmother and stepsister prevented her. She gets a beautiful dress and the fairy turns animals into her servants and so on. Everyone is enchanted at the ball by Cinderella, none more so than the Prince, and at midnight, Cinderella leaves, as commanded by the Fairy Godmother. In Grimms’ version, there is no fairy godmother. Cinderella begets gowns from a magical hazel-tree growing by her mother’s grave. I prefer the fairy godmother; it seems more magical and it’s great how animals are turned into humans. That’s a fun aspect of the fairy-tale.

In the version by Perrault, Cinderella could not go to the ball because she was a servant and that was the end of discussion. In the version by the Grimm brothers, her stepmother actually gives her a chance, but she gives her such an impossible task to complete before the ball that it’s clear Cinderella can’t go. I have to say that I prefer Perrault’s version in this respect, it’s more realistic. Cinderella does not deserve to be a servant in her father’s house, but she is and it’s logical that a servant wouldn’t attend a ball. Then, the Fairy Godmother magically appears and all is well. Now, in this respect I prefer the version by the Grimms. I like the fact that pigeons and doves help Cinderella, and that they coo rhymes: “the good into the pot, the bad into the crop.” I miss rhymes/songs in Perrault’s version. I guess it’s a tie here.

The ball – midnight strikes and slippers are lost: In Perrault’s version, Cinderella goes to two balls and she loses one glass slipper after the second ball. The Prince pockets her glass slipper. She manages to escape home. In the version by the Grimms, Cinderella attends three balls. After the third ball, Cinderella loses a slipper made of gold. I prefer the glass slipper because glass is fragile, beautiful and dainty, as I imagine Cinderella to be, whereas the gold slipper shows wealth and luxury, which is not in her character.

The Prince searches for his dance partner: In both cases, the Prince is determined to find his dance partner with the slipper she left behind and then marry her. In Perrault’s version, the stepsister try to get the shoe on in vain, but the slipper doesn’t fit them and they have to admit defeat. In the version by the Grimms, the stepsisters don’t stop at anything; although the slipper doesn’t fit either of them, one sister goes as far as cutting off her toe and the other one a bit of her heel. In both cases, pigeons betray their plan by cooing, “Turn and peep, turn and peep, there's blood within the shoe, the shoe it is too small for her, the true bride waits for you.” Finally, it fits Cinderella, of course. As gory as the Grimm version is, I prefer it to Perrault’s because of the pigeons and their song.

The aftermath: In Perrault’s version, the stepsisters ask Cinderella for forgiveness and she forgives them. Cinderella marries the Prince and her stepsisters marry lords, so the story ends well for all. In the version by the Grimm brothers, the stepsisters attend Cinderella’s wedding and the pigeons peck out their eyes, punishing their cruelty with blindness. I definitely prefer Perrault’s version. I like the idea that kindness breeds kindness and how the ability to forgive is important and can heal so many wounds and cracks in relationships. The Grimms’ version is merely gory and supports the policy of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, which I don’t like. It reminds me of revenge and I was never one for revenge.

I prefer: Perrault’s version. It is not only romantic, but also educational and has a very clear moral in the end. Both fairy-tales have good and bad sides; both are very enjoyable to read, but as I said, I prefer Perrault’s version.


Blodeuedd said...

I like the Grimm's grim version, it feels more true, or maybe I am just wicked

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I prefer Grimm's because it was the one I heard first and I love the rhymes/songs especially when the pigeons get the prince to turn around although your version is vastly different; mine is "Prithee look back, prithee look back/ there's blood on the track/ the slipper's too small/ the true bride waits you home at her hall." Crazy what a difference translation can make!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I'm a little weird not to prefer the Grimm version.;)

@Bookworm: Wow, what a difference, indeed! I prefer your version way better!

Risa said...

Wow! I always thought the version I knew (and I didn't realise there were other versions) was by Grimm, but apparently I knew Perrault's version... Grimm's version sounds like something out of Hans Christian Andersen. I've always found his fairytales to be very dark!

I'm with you on this Irena...Perrault's is infinitely better from what I read of the differences!


Jan von Harz said...

In my fairy tale unit at school, I always wow my students with Grimm's version of the ending of Cinderella. Their contact with fairy tales are almost entirely from Disney so the cutting off of the heels and the pecking out of the eyes is always a surprise. Great comparison.

Enbrethiliel said...


I love the face off! ;-)

I grew up with Perrault's version and it is the one I will always love more. While I think the mutilation of the feet is a great element in the Grimm retelling, I'm not crazy about those pigeons. They're just too random for me. When I have children, I think I'll tell them Perrault's version but throw in the foot mutilation.